Star Traks, Waystation, and REM's Document belong to Alan Decker. The Explorer, her fated crew, and all the mistakes and uncomfortable situations that come about because of her are gladly owned by Anthony Butler, Copyright 1998. Paramount owns everything else, including my eternal soul. If you're offended by mildly disturbing language, situations, and the utter disregard of some of Star Trek's greatest premises, better hit the "Back" button on your browser right now. If not, welcome aboard!

Author: Anthony Butler
Copyright: 1998



“Excuse me,” a voice said from behind Mirk and Hartley.

“Put on a happy face,” Mirk whispered under his

breath, and turned to face the source of the voice. The man

wore a shiny bright canary outfit, and had a dangerous-looking

cattle-prod-like device strapped to his hip. “Yes?” Mirk asked


“I don’t recognize those clothes,” the man said,

looking at Hartley’s Starfleet uniform. “And what race are


Mirk smiled proudly. “I am a Maloxian. I’m

from…uh…the Malox system.”

“I’ve never heard of that system.”

“It’s a very small system,” Hartley said.

“Very small,” Mirk agreed.

“And her?”

Mirk looked at Hartley then back at the man.

“Uh…garbage person?”

“She’s a pretty good lookin’ garbage person,” the man


“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell her,” Mirk said,

elbowing Hartley. “Isn’t that right, hon?”

Hartley elbowed Mirk back a little harder, smiling

wide. “That’s right, hon.”

“Well, you guys take care, and make sure to stay

happy,” the man said, trotting off along a path back into

the woods.

Hartley and Mirk kept on smiling until the man


“What was that all about?” Hartley asked, her smile

fading quickly.

“I think that was some kind of cop,” Mirk replied,

seeming vexed at the notion.

“But what kind of cop wears yellow shiny pants?”

Hartley said. “That just isn’t normal!”

“Well, it fits in with the rest of this damn universe.

Now let’s get into town and see if we can find some clothes

that are a little less conspicuous.”

“I think more conspicuous is a better idea,

considering the universe we’re in.”

“Good point.”

“We have reached a safe distance, sir,” Data reported,

as Picard looked up at the stardrive section of the

Enterprise on the viewscreen. The saucer section had

angled away on thrusters as soon as the separation sequence

had completed, in case the data cascade sent over by the

Explorer had caused any harm to Enterprise’s warp engines.

“Picard to Woofie. Is there any sign of trouble in


Picard turned to Data when there was no response.

Data cocked his head quizzically. “It appears that

the Explorer’s cascade has disrupted our communications

ability. Impulse engines have been rendered useless as


“Fiddlesticks,” Picard cursed.

“Captain…” Data said. “Someone has just broken into

the happyness lab.”

“Who? What’s going on?”

Data shook his head. “Sensors are severely limited.

I cannot tell…”

Suddenly the bridge was washed with light as the

stardrive section exploded in a brilliant eruption of color.

Picard withdrew his sword in a blindingly fast

movement and thrust it up against Chrissie’s throat. “I

thought you said that was a trick!”

“I thought…that is, I–”

Before Chrissie could finish his stuttering, a

phaser blast streaked across the bridge and connected with

Mr. Data, sending him flying forward into his panel, a

shower of sparks erupting from his back.

Ducking a blast from one of the security officers near

the aft stations, Manservant Jaroch whirled around and shot

both security officers and the science officer that was stationed

at the rear of the bridge as well.

“What is the meaning of this?” Picard asked, swinging

his sword around to face Jaroch.

“The madness must end here,” Jaroch said, leveling his

phaser at Picard.

“Jaroch, I never knew you cared,” Dillon said wryly.

“I don’t. I still hate you, Dillon. It is Mistress

Beck who I could never betray. When you are indentured to

someone, it creates a bond that cannot be broken. That is

something you’d never understand.”

“Nor would I want to,” Dillon spat out.

“Riker, baby! Take out Mr. Jaroch before it’s too late!”

Picard said, looking down the nose of Jaroch’s phaser uneasily.

“Ooog?” Riker asked, scratching his head.

“RIKER!” Picard cried. “Baby, I need you!”

“Grunch. Grunch Grunch Grunch,” Riker said, seeming

quite pleased with himself.

“He’s not going to help you,” Jaroch said. “He is a loyal

citizen of the Empire, even if you aren’t. Now Binkyboo, go

untie our friends.”

Picard’s face was lined with hurt as he watched Riker

dutifully untie Dillon, Lisa-love, Kelly-bell, and the others.

“Binkyboo, how could you do this to me?” Picard asked.

Dillon tossed his bonds aside and walked up to Picard,

wrenching the sword out of his limp hands. It appeared that

all the beans had gone right out of the good Captain.

“You’ve caused me a lot of trouble, you bald twit!”

Dillon shrieked. “And you’ll pay for it. By the smileyface,

you will SUFFER!”

And with that, Dillon removed his white suede gloves

and bitch-slapped Picard hard across the face.

“Oh, the humanity,” Picard said softly, dropping

limply to the floor. “I can’t take any more.”

“If anyone cares,” Kelly-bell said, looking worriedly

at the viewscreen. “The Explorer is getting away!”

“We have to get off this dead ship,” Dillon said

briskly, looking back at Chrissie.

“There should be a runabout available in the

shuttlebay, your Happyness,” Chrissie replied. “I’m

rerouting power to turbolifts now.”

Dillon frowned down at Picard and put his gloves back

on. “Very well. Prepare the runabout and then destroy all

the other shuttlecraft and launch all escape pods.

“What are you planning to do, you evil, evil man?”

Picard asked, tears streaming down his eyes.

“Come now, Picard!” Dillon said with a happy squeak.

“It’s about time someone else did the blowing. Up that is!”

The Happymaster snickered to himself and turned away from

Picard, moving briskly toward the turbolift, his cape

fluttering behind him. “Quickly, now! We haven’t much time

to lose! If I know Rebecca Singer, she’s only got one thing

on her mind!”

“You want us to topple the Federation of Fun?”

Richards said in disbelief as he paced the battle bridge.

“And just how do you expect us to do that?”

“Leave that up to Fresca and me,” Singer said,

turning in the command chair to face the viewscreen. “We

have an opportunity now to dethrone the Emperor once and for


“What about Lieutenant Hartley and Mr. Mirk?” Browning

asked. “They’re trapped somewhere in this blasted


“I managed to track down Hartley’s comm badge signal on

longrange,” Ensign Stuart reported from tactical. “Don’t

ask me how she got there, but she’s on Earth.”

“And I’ll bet anything Mirk is with her,” Richards

mumbled. “I guess we’ll have to go along with your plan,

Major Singer, as ludicrous as it sounds. We have to get

Mirk and Hartley back.”

“It isn’t necessarily ludicrous,” Fresca said. “The

Explorer has some defensive systems the Federation of Fun

may not have developed yet. We should be able to get past

Earth’s defenses with a minimum of fuss.”

“I don’t know,” Richards said. “It still sounds

risky. You’re talking about taking down an entire empire.”

“It only takes one phaserblast to end that empire,

Richards,” Singer said, standing up and clapping a hand

on Richards’s shoulder. “And I’m going to be the one

doing the firing.”

“Do I have any say in this?” Bradley Dillon asked from a

corner of the bridge where he and Lana sat, plaintively

watching the exchange.

“No,” Richards and Singer said at the same time.

“Well, damn, we’re back where we started,” Peterman

sighed, looking around the twirling expanse of the

Bermuda Expanse Rift. “I don’t know about you, J’hana, but

I’m getting pretty darned tired of–J’hana?”

An eyeball popped into existence in front of Peterman

so suddenly she jerked back.

<Hi there. Your friend J’hana is helping elsewhere.

What we really need is some of your expertise.>

“What kind of expertise? You mean counseling?”

The eyeball brightened. <Yes, exactly! You see, we’ve

really been pretty negatively effected by this whole thing

and we think it may help to talk about it.>

“I see.”

<So how does this work? Do I just start talking, or do you

like to ask questions first?>

Peterman thought about that a moment. “Am I getting

paid for this?”


J’hana materialized inside a gigantic white room,

almost the size of a football field. She was thankful to be

back in her original Andorian body, but confused as hell as

to where she was.

“Counselor? Eyeball?” J’hana asked, looking around.

All she could find was a huge pile of marbles that appeared

to take up the entire room. “Is anyone here or am I

expected to wait here until I go completely insane?”

Suddenly a man in a loud sequined suit appeared in

front of J’hana and shook her hand vigorously. “George

Sherbert, agent extroardinaire at your service! Nice to

meet ya!”

“Who?” J’hana asked, as the man led her towards the

pile of marbles.

“That’s not important, my dear. I’m just a concerned

friend of the Directors. They’re in what we like to call a

‘session’ now, so I said I’d show you the ropes and get you

started on the…” George made air quotes with his fingers,



“I knew you’d be excited, it’s really a very exciting

project from what I hear,” George said, looking at his

clipboard and examining it a moment. “Says here these

marbles are a corporeal representation of the Directors’

conciousness–don’t you hate legalease?–anyway, you’re

supposed to separate the sane ones from the nutty ones.”

J’hana stared at the pile in horror. “And, pray tell,

how am I supposed to tell them apart?”

“Good question,” George said, scratching his head.

“Let’s see here…says you have to look at each one and

decide that for yourself.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just busy work?”

“You think they’d be paying me sixty percent over

scale for busy work? Come on, babe! Listen, I’ll be in the

other room if you need me, and there’s a pot of coffee

brewing over there. Good luck!”

“But–” J’hana said, as the man moved off toward a

door on the opposite end of the large room.

“Oh,” George said, turning. “I almost forgot. You

better work quick. The Directors said that if you didn’t

get the marbles straightened out quickly, the whole subspace

fabric might rip apart.”

“And I suppose that’s bad?”

“Roger that, sweety! I’ll see ya later!”

J’hana grunted with dissatisfaction and stared up at

the pile. “If I would have known I’d be doing this before I

signed up for Starfleet, I’d have gone into my fourth

father’s cattle-rustling business instead.”

The Andorian sighed and climbed to the top of the

pile, picking up a marble and inspecting it.

“Let’s see here. Insane or Sane?”

Upon closer inspection, the ball reflected a tiny

image of J’hana being stabbed over and over again with a

ritual knife.

“Hmmm.” She thought for a long while and finally

tossed the marble over her shoulder decisively. “Definitely

insane. This will be easier than I thought.”

“I feel like a moron,” Lt. Hartley said under her

breath, as she and Mirk made their way through the streets

of San Francisco.

Mirk was sporting flowery bell-bottom pants and a

shiny yellow jacket, and Hartley was decked out in a bright,

ornate, vinyl jumpsuit that swirled with funky rainbow

colors. The heels on the boots she wore were several inches

too high, which was evidenced by the awkward way she tried

to move through the streets.

“When on Garibid, do like the Garibid do,” Mirk



“It’s just an expression.”

“Right,” Hartley said, looking around. “So what do we

do from here?”

“You tell me. You’re the brilliant Starfleet

officer. Doesn’t your training cover stuff like this?”

“I never read about anything even close to this at the

academy. You’ve got me.”

“Well, then. Back to square one, I suppose.”

“Maybe we should start by asking ourselves why you

transported us here of all places.”

Mirk thought about that as he looked around at all the

sickeningly happy people around. “Beats me. It just kind


“There has to be a logic to it. What’s here in San



“I mean besides the freaks.”

“Again, this is your planet, Megan.”

“Yeah, but I grew up on Beta Myrimad. I don’t know

that much about San Francisco or Earth for that matter. I

mean, Starfleet Academy is here. And Starfleet Command.

And a lot of nice coffee pla–wait a minute…”

Mirk and Hartley looked at one another. “Starfleet

Command!” they both said at once.

“So do you think San Francisco is still the base of

operations for this government?” Mirk asked.

“At least it’s worth trying. Hail us a trolley and

we’ll see what we can find.”

“Hail a what?”

Hartley moved out into the street and stuck her hand up

in the air. “Never mind.”

“Listen carefully, mister, no one calls my nephew

spanky!” Admiral McGrath said angrily from the viewscreen

in Ops. “Is that clear?”

Behind Conway, Robby stuck his tongue out.

“Yes, sir. I’ll give Gellar a slap on the wrist. Now

that we have the ‘imporant’ business out of the way, how

about this little matter about the rift and the entire

f***ing quadrant?”

“You’d better change you tone quick, Commander!” McGrath

ordered. “I’m not accustomed to being addressed that way.”

“I’m sorry, Admiral. Let me rephrase that. What

about the rift and the entire f***ing quadrant?”

“We’ll reach Waystation tomorrow morning, and the

Venture and the Dartmouth should be through the ionic storm

by tomorrow afternoon.”

“You’re coming…personally?” Conway asked uneasily.

“With my nephew at stake, darned right I am. I’m

coming with the Starship Pulitzer.”

“Pulitzer,” Conway said thoughtfully. “I think I’ve

heard of it.”

“You should have,” the voice of Dr. Alexa Lanham, Conway’s

ex-wife said, as she elbowed Admiral McGrath out of the picture.

“It’s the science vessel I was assigned to. They’ve made me honorary

first officer now! And I get to figure out the problem with that darned

rift you’ve got there. See you soon!”

“Are you trying to torture me, Admiral?” Conway asked


“No, but if that’s the case, so much the better! McGrath


Conway looked back at his staff and the Waystation

crewmembers as McGrath and Lanham blinked off the viewscreen.

“The first person that says anything gets Court Martialed!”

“Happymaster Dillon has instructed me to inform you

that Captain Picard has attempted a coup, but it has been

stopped thanks to the interference of beings from an

alternate universe. Request a meeting to confer.”

Emperor Webber studied the image of the Bajoran officer

with interest as she rapped her fingernails against her

massive throne. “By all means, let’s confer. Tell my sweet

Dillon-baby that we’ll confer until the cows come home!”

Webber pressed a button on her throne. “This is Emperor

Webber to the perimiter guard. Let that ship through!”

“Thank you very much, your Happyness,” the Bajoran

said. “We’ll be in touch in**BLEEP***”

“Hold on just a mo, dear,” Webber said. “Call

waiting.” She pressed another button on her throne and the

image changed to that of Happymaster Dillon aboard a

runabout. “Dillon-baby?” Webber asked in confusion.

“No time to explain! Do not let Explorer through!

It’s a trap!”

“Darn it all to heck, Dillon-baby, what have you

gotten into now!”

“I’ll explain when I get there! Just stop the


“We have a ship named Explorer?”

“Just stop that ship, Emperor!”

“Travvy, honey, I have one of those Explorer people on

the other line. Should I switch over and see if she can

help clear this mess up?”

“NO! Just stop them, at any cost!”

“Now why are you being so forceful with me? Last time

we talked you were being so nice, and now this,” Webber began

to cry. The layers of mascara around her eyes began to drip

down her white, powder-caked face.

On the viewscreen, Dillon seemed to notice something

on the monitor next to him. “Damn it, Emperor, they’ve

already started beaming down there! Activate the intruder

alert and wait for me! I’ll be along as soon as I can.”

“Oh, Dillon-baby, I’m so scared!”

Dillon just sighed and closed the channel.

Webber activated the intruder alert and curled her legs

underneath her, stabbing the comm button with a trembling

finger. “Oh, guards, come and help me! The rebels are

coming and I’m terrified!”

“Interceptor ships coming in on several attack

vectors,” Stuart reported from tactical. “They’re no

match for us.”

“Take them out, Ryan,” Richards said from the

command chair. “And get our shields back up. It’s up to

Singer’s team now.”

“I don’t like the looks of this,” Lana said worriedly

from behind Richards. “We’re only one ship. How can we

expect to topple an entire Empire?”

“The Explorer has held up under worse than this,”

Richards said. “Stuart, what’s the status on that


“Out of firing range, sir. They’ve entered Earth’s

atmosphere and are attempting a landing.”

“Damn. Dillon’s going to get through after all. What

about the Enterprise saucer?”

“Right where we left it, though it appears to be

building up to a self-destruct.”

“Wish I could say I felt sorry for them,” Richards


“Sir, I’d start feeling sorry for us right now,”

Stuart said worriedly. “Three starships just entered the

area and are on an intercept course directly for us.”

“Damn,” Richards cursed. “Janice, take the helm.

Get us out of orbit. Stuart, increase power to shields

and weapons!”

Browning blinked at Richards’s order. He’d never given

her an order before. “Christopher, I’m a doctor, not a


“Do it, Janice!” Richards barked. “That’s an


“Aye, aye,” Browning said wryly, scooting into the

pilot’s chair. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Captain Picard climbed over the wreckage of the bridge

and pulled Commander Data down to the floor with him.

“Data, speak to me…please!”

“Zrtt…ritibbbbbbbb…” Data said, sparks flying out

of his mouth.

“Shit, Data, I need you!” Picard flipped open the top

of Data’s head and began fiddling with the circuitry inside.

“You’ve always been there for me when everyone else

wasn’t…please don’t leave me now! I don’t know what I’d

do without you!”

“Self destruct in thirteen minutes,” the computer said


Picard cursed and continued to manipulate the

circuitry inside Data’s head. Finally, a few syllables of

his gibberish began to make sense.


Picard hugged Data tight as he cradled him in his lap.

“That’s my boy. I need you to help me stop Happymaster

Dillon. I can’t get anything around here to work, much less

you. I may be pretty, but I’m not very smart, I’m afraid.”

“I…grrrt…know, sir. I shall endeavor to help you,

but first you must…vrrrrrrrt…reactivate my

cortical…sbbbbbbbbbbbbb…. subprocessor…”

“Right. What’s that again?”

“Self destruct in eleven minutes.”

“We m-must st-stop the srrrrf–destruct,” Data said.

“Excellent suggestion, Mr. Data. Just tell me what I

have to do!”

Richards stared at the viewscreen woefully as the

Explorer threaded its way through the Mars-Earth asteroid

belt. “Tactical status,” he said uneasily.

“Three starships, Excelsior class, right on our tail!”

Stuart called out. “And I think they’re EXTREMELY happy

to see us!”

“Damn!” Richards cried. “Try to shake them, honey.”

Dr. Browning turned away from the helm console for a

moment. “Christopher, I’m trying as hard as I can to steer this

thing. Starship helming was never in my job description!”

Torpedo impacts crashed against the Explorer, causing

it to pitch forward toward Earth.

“You’ll have to start learning, hon,” Richards said,

as the bridge suddenly rocked severely.

“Nine torpedo hits, all direct on our shields. Down

to seventy percent!” Stuart called out.

“Janice, come about to 011 mark 032,” Richards cried.

“Ready on quantums and fire at will, Mr. Stuart!”

“Aye, sir!”

The Explorer barreled towards the three starships,

pummeling at them with its quantum torpedoes.

After repairing Data’s cortical subprocessor, Picard

watched as the Android briskly went to work on the guts of

one of the computer stations on the bridge.

“Data, what are you doing?”

Lt. Commander Data’s hands moved like lightening. “I

am terminating the self destruct.”

“That’s good,” Picard said confidently. “I knew you’d

get us back on the right track.”

“That remains to be seen,” Data said, as suddenly

lights flickered on around the bridge.

“Self destruct terminated. Have a great day,” the

computer chirped.

“You did it!” Picard exclaimed, hugging the android

tightly. “Great work, Mr. Data. Now, how about getting

those engines operative?”

“Aye, sir.”

Captain T’poo of the Federation Funship USS Ruth

Buzzy smiled weakly as he listended to the tactical report.

He would have frowned, had he a choice, but all Funfleet

officers new that was grounds for mutiny.

“They destroyed the Piscopo and badly damaged the

Radner,” the tactical officer, a rather geeky, perpetually

grinning Benzite reported brightly. “Our own shields are

down to fifty-three percent.”

“Peachy,” the Vulcan said. “What about the Unhappy


“Their shields are down to thirty-two percent,

Captain. Just a lil more work and we’ll have ‘em.”

“So it would seem,” the Vulcan agreed, nodding. “But

they’re awfully resourceful, these Unhappys. I wouldn’t put

anything past–”

“Sir!” the Benzite called out. “The Enterprise saucer

is making a move for Earth!”

“Really?” T’Poo asked, arching an eyebrow. “I thought

the Happymaster had put them on self destruct.”

“Obviously something has changed. What should we do?”

T’poo shrugged. “Send the Radner after them.

Stopping the Explorer is our top priority.”

“Indeedily doodily, sir.”

“I have managed to extract a small amount of power

from the back-up fusion reactors,” Lt. Commander Data

explained, typing furiously at his panel as the Enterprise

thundered towards Earth. “It will not be a comfortable

ride, due to the cascade’s effect on our inertial dampers,

but we will be able to land nonetheless.”

“Very good,” Picard said, leaning against the helm

console and putting a hand on Data’s shoulder. “We may stop

Webber yet, you know.”

“Stranger things have happened, Captain.” Suddenly,

Data’s panel bleeped. “Sir, one of the ships that was doing

battle with the Explorer has broken off and come after us.”

“Can you evade it?” Picard asked, growing worried.

“I do not believe so. We barely have the power to

make it to Earth as it is.”

“We must make it there, Data!” Picard said. “Do we

have any weapons to work with?”

“Negative.” Data thought a moment. “However, I may

be able to offer an alternative.”

Picard smiled. “I knew you would. I’m all ears,


“The Funship will undoubtedly lock a tractor beam onto

us. All we have to do is send a disruptive pulse along the

beam. Since my sensors indicate that the Funship is already

badly damaged, I believe the pulse will be significant to

stop them.”

“Ooh, that sounds absolutely naughty. Make it so!”

On the small screen on Data’s panel, Picard watched

the Excelsior-class Funship Radner come toward them.

Meanwhile, they were steadily nearing Earth’s outer


As Data predicted, a blue beam lanced out and

connected with the Enterprise saucer, causing the hull to

tremble ever so slightly with strain.

“Initiate the pulse, Mr. Data!” Picard commanded.

“Aye, sir,” Data said, watching as green electricity

crackled back along the tractor beam, spreading along the

hull of the Radner.

With a hideous explosion, one of the Radner’s warp

nacelle’s blew off, causing the vessel to pitch foward,

smashing directly into the saucer.

“Oh dear,” Data said, as the saucer rumbled around

them. “I must have miscalculated the amount of damage done

to the Radner.”

Picard gripped Data tight as the saucer streaked down

toward Earth. “Stop us, Data! We’re going to crash!”

“I am aware of that,” Data said. “However, I see no

alternative at present. We have barely enough power to push

away from the Radner so that she does not pull us down with


Picard felt the saucer buck underneath him as the

Radner streaked by on Data’s tiny screen, trailing fire

behind her.

“At least try to put us down near San Francisco,”

Picard ordered. “If we survive the landing we still have an

opportunity to destroy that bitch Webber. And get a

half-caf latte while we’re at it.”

Data considered this. “I believe the odds of our

failure are increasing exponentially, sir.”

“Protect the Emperor!” the leader of the Royal guard

cried, as he and his swarm of Happytroops moved into the


“Oh, thank you all for coming on such short notice,”

Webber said happily, placing her arms around the two nearest

soldiers as they made a circle around her. “I hate to get

you all so…shaken up, but I heard there were people

attacking here…and I got so terribly scared.”

“It’s okay, Emperor. We’re here now.”

“You don’t know how much better I feel,” Webber smiled.

“Let me by, you imbeciles!” Happymaster Dillon cried,

his cape fluttering behind him as he pushed through the mass

of troops and entered the room, with Mistress Beck,

Manservant Jaroch, and Captain Riker on his heels.

“Oh, darling, you’re finally here!” Webber cried,

pushing away from the leader of the guard and running to

embrace Dillon.

“Yes, Emperor, I’m here. But hold off on the

pleasantries. We have an empire to save.”


“Yes, Emperor, I’m here. But hold off on the

pleasantries. We have an empire to save.”

“Oh, you smug f***er, will I be happy to wipe that

smile off your face,” Singer said quietly, watching Dillon

through binoculars from the window on the palace’s lofty

rooftop and pulling the reciever from her sound enhancing

device out of her ear.

“So do we get to kill them now?” Fresca asked


“Not just yet, Fresca. We have to wait till they let

their guards down.”

“There they are!” Tilly cried, clambering onto the

roof and running for Singer and Fresca’s position. “I

knew you were trouble from the beginning, Fresca! You

should never have come here after betraying us!”

“Get moving, Singer!” Fresca cried. “I’ll take care

of the Betazoid!”

Tilly fired a phaser at Fresca and barely missed.

“You’re no match for my powers, weakling!”

“Maybe that was true before we were integrated with

Maloxian DNA, but now it’s a level playing field, you

telepathic bitch!” Fresca said, ducking a punch and throwing

Tilly over her shoulder.

Tilly pulled herself up, concentrated on Fresca, and

squeezed her eyes shut.

Fresca just laughed and bowed her head in Tilly’s

direction. The Betazoid reeled backward as if she’d been

hit by a huge explosion.

“Did you find them, Til–” Chrissie said, climbing

up onto the roof. Before he knew what hit him, Tilly

slammed into him and both of them fell to the ground.

“Come on!” Singer cried from the maintenance hatch

in the roof. “Let’s make ourselves scarce!”

“And to your right is the Imperial Palace,” Sally the

tourguide said, leading Mirk, Hartley, and the rest of the

tour group around to the front of a huge, sprawling


“This is where Starfleet Command should be, judging by

where the bridge and some other landmarks are in relation to

it,” Hartley whispered.

“Emperor Webber made many alterations when she took the

throne three years ago,” Sally continued as the group moved

toward the palace. “She completely changed the government

and enacted many interesting laws that keep us safe and

happy today.”

“I hate this universe,” Mirk said under his breath.

“We’re very lucky to get a glimpse into this glamorous

world,” Sally said, leading the group thorough the massive

front doors and into the lobby. “And if you look to your

left you’ll–” just then a security guard in a “Nutcracker

Prince” outfit stepped forward and whispered something in

Sally’s ear. The tourguide smiled. “Fantastic. Folks, it

seems like there are some little…eventualities going on

today, so we’re going to be asked to stay well away from the

Emperor’s suite and any other secured areas. But don’t you

worry, that still leaves some amazing places to explore.

We’re going to start with the Royal shoe-shine room, located

to the left and down the East wing…”

“Wonder if those ‘eventualities’ have anything to do

with our friends…” Mirk whispered.

“I wouldn’t put it past them,” Hartley replied.




“Afternoon, Earl,” Inmate 0200 said, pulling up a

chair and looking up at the beautiful blue sky. “Nice day,


“Yeah, Carol, I guess it is,” Inmate 0210 replied.

“Reminds me of back home.”

“Does it make you happy?”

Carol sighed. “Not really. Guess we’re still stuck

here, huh?” “Yeah. Unless we…you know, lied. Pretended

we were happy. D’ya think we could do that, Carol?”

“Trust me, Earl. It’s just not worth it.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

After several moments of silence, a low rumbling sound

approached Earl and Carol.

“Do you hear something, Earl?”

“Yeah. Like thunder or something.”

“That can’t be it. There’s not a cloud in the sky.”

Suddenly, a large grey, metal disk swooped out of the

sky and whizzed over the Funcamp compound.

“You see that, Earl?”

“Wait a sec…” The PA system crackled to life.

“Attention all Funcamp participants: What you have

just seen flying over your heads is not a crashing Funfleet

vessel. Please return to your Twister and Scrabble games

and remain docile. Anyone attempting to be unhappy or

stimulate original thought will be forced to submit to

Conflict Resolution Therapy. Thank you.”

“Guess I didn’t see anything,” Earl said.

“Yeah. Me neither. Nice day, huh?”

“So what’s through there?” Mirk asked, looking down

the long hallway that was adjacent to the Emperor’s “Rubber-

walled Playpen” room.

“Those are the Emperor’s chambers, but we won’t be able

to see them today,” Sally the tourguide said sweetly. “But if you

follow me this way, you’ll get to see the Emperor’s tapioca

swimming pool!”

“Yay,” Hartley said unenthusiastically. “You go ahead,

Mirk. I’ve got to use the ladies’ room.”

“Okey doke,” Mirk said, pulling out his imager and

taking a picture of the Rubber-walled Playpen room.

“Get off me!” Tilly cried, as the med-tech attempted

to run a tissue regenerator over her bruises.

“So they’re loose on the compound?” Happymaster Dillon

said angrily, pacing back and forth in Webber’s throneroom.

“Great. Just great.”

“You should have seen what Fresca did to her,

Happymaster! She just looked at her and used kinetic powers

to throw her halfway across the roof!” Chrissie said.

“Don’t you all have powers of your own?” Webber asked

impatiently from her throne.

“Mine were increased, but evidently not enough,” Tilly

said, rubbing her forehead painfully.

“What about you?” Webber asked.

“Perfect beard-growing capabilities,” Chrissie said


“Great!” Dillon said, throwing his hands up in

exasperation. “And I suppose you acquired perfect hair-

combing capabilities, Peterman?”

Kelly-bell drew her legs up as she sat on the steps

that led up to Webber’s throne. “I didn’t get jack squat,

how’s that for fair?”

“At least your brain wasn’t scrambled like poor

Riker’s,” Webber said reasonably.

“Speaking of which, where is he?” Dillon asked.

“Jaroch’s walking him around the compound, last I heard,”

Chrissie replied.

“Take two of the guards and go find them. I don’t

trust either of them to be frolicking around the palace

grounds at a time like this,” Dillon said sternly.

“Aye, sir,” Chrissie replied, pointing to two

guards and moving off.

Dillon turned to Mistress Beck. “Lisa-love, what news

do you have on the crashing saucer section?”

Lisa-love shrugged. “The Federation FunCamp near here

sighted it going down about fourteen kilometers to the east.

I dispatched our security forces. Whoever survives the

crash won’t survive for long.”

“Good,” Dillon said viciously. “Just tell the squad

leader not to kill Picard. I want him for myself.”

Lisa-love bowed. “Whatever you say, Happymaster.”

“I don’t know about any of you, but I really have to

pee,” Kelly-bell said, pushing off the stairs and heading out

toward the door.

“Don’t hurry back,” Mistress Beck grumbled.

Kelly-bell looked back at Lisa-love and sneered. “You’re

just mad because I can satisfy him and you can’t.”

“Satisfy who?” Webber asked.

“Don’t worry about it, darling,” Dillon said with a


“‘Don’t hurry back,’” Kelly-bell said angrily into the

mirror in the Executive bathroom. She frowned in the mirror

in an attempt to mimick Mistress Beck. “Hi, I’m Mistress

Beck, I’m a twisted sex-starved freak!”

Kelly-bell continued to grumble as she pushed into a

stall and began to do her business.

“Pardon me,” a voice said from the stall next to

Kelly-bell. “There’s no toilet paper in my stall. Do you

have any?”

“Sorry. I don’t have a square to spare,” Kelly-bell

said defiantly, pulling genrously from the roll beside her.

“Isn’t that always the way. You know, this day has

just gone downhill since I woke up.”

Kelly-bell looked up and listened carefully to the

voice. Something about it was very familiar.

“I know what you mean,” Kelly-bell replied slowly.

“So what are you doing here at the palace?”

“Just taking the grand tour. You?”

“Oh, a little of this and a little of that.”

“Mmm hmm,” Hartley said with a flush of the toilet.

Kelly-bell likewise flushed and peeked out of her

stall. “You know…your voice sounds very familiar. Are

you sure we haven’t met before?”

Hartley turned around. “Not that I know–oh, f***!”

Kelly-bell laughed with a fierceness that echoed

throughout the ceramic walls of the bathroom. “You don’t

know how long I’ve been waiting for this you little shit. I

don’t know how you got here, but I know how you’re leaving!

In a body bag!”

The Counselor lept toward Hartley, who grabbed her by

the back of her uniform and smashed her into the mirror.

Kelly-bell kicked Hartley away, rising to her full hight

on top of the sink and leaping catlike down to the floor,

right on top of Hartley.

Mirk rapped his fingers gingerly on the bathroom door.

“Megan? Are you okay in there? We finished the tour of

the tapioca pool. You should see it.”

“I’m a litte busy right now, Mirk!” Hartley cried from

within the bathroom.

“Jeeze,” Mirk said. “You’d think she was fighting for

her life in there.”

“You are the reason everything went sour in the Delta

Quadrant!” Kelly-bell cried, slamming Hartley into the stall

and shoving her head into the toilet. “If it weren’t for

you, Riker’s head wouldn’t have turned to jelly and the

whole crew wouldn’t have rebelled! I’m going to kill you!”

Hartley lifted her head up just in time to see a full

roll of toilet paper hanging beside her. “I’ll be damned,

you had plenty of toliet paper to spare! You liar!”

“Sorry!” Kelly-bell cried, dragging Hartley up by her

hair and trying to slam her head into the rim around the

bowl. But Hartley kicked Kelly-bell in the stomach,

knocking her into the stall door.

“I hate toilet paper hoarders!” Hartley cried, grabbing

the collar of Kelly-bell’s uniform and hurling her out the

bathroom door.

Mirk knocked on the bathroom door again. “Megan,

what’s the–”

Suddenly the door swung open and a body slammed into

Mirk, knocking him to the ground.

Kelly-bell scrambled to her feet, just in time to

notice who she’d knocked into. “Mirk? But I saw you die!

You died, dammit!”

“Not in this universe, lady!” Mirk said, concentrating

his powers on Kelly-bell and levitating her off the ground.

Kelly-bell’s limbs flailed in all directions. “Help

me, for Happyness’ sake! Get me down from here!”

“Let me at her, Mirk!” Hartley cried, jumping and

reaching for Kelly-bell as Mirk levitated her.

“Goodness, you’re worked up,” Mirk said. “What’s the


“She hoarded her toilet paper!” Hartley said


Suddenly Dillon and the palace guards appeared, moving

quickly down the hallway toward Mirk and Hartley.

“Put her down!” Dillon cried.

“I’ll put her down, all right,” Mirk said, nodding in

Dillon’s direction, sending Kelly-bell flying into him.

“Help me!” Kelly-bell cried, as she soared through the

air into Dillon.

“Not now, honey,” Dillon said, pushing Kelly-bell aside

and marching toward Mirk. “You’re an impudent little troll,

aren’t you?”

“And that goatee looks awful,” Mirk countered. “Get

behind me, Megan.”

“Sure you can be brave when you have powers to back

you up,” Hartley scoffed, as Mirk looked Dillon up and down.

“So are you in charge here?” Mirk asked.

“I might as well be. Now will you two be nice enough

to come with–”

“‘Fraid not,” Mirk said, forming a ball of energy in

front of him and firing it at Dillon.

Dillon laughed and caught the ball in his hand.

“Cute. Can you make a quarter appear behind my ear, too?”

“I don’t get it,” Mirk said, starting to panic.

“You’re no match for me, little one,” Dillon said,

laughing fiendishly and tossing the ball of energy back at

Mirk and Hartley.

“You’re no match for him, little one,” Hartley

repeated, zombielike, as she stumbled back to her feet.

“Did I just say that?”

“Now that’s a neat trick,” Mirk said, winding up his

arm like a baseball pitcher. “Try this one on for size,


From seemingly out of nowhere, Mirk formed a huge net

in front of him, hurling it at Dillon and the guards.

Dillon stared the net down as it approached them,

causing it to crumble to pieces before reaching him..

“Got any other tricks?” Dillon asked with amusement.

“Just one,” Mirk replied. “Grab onto me, Megan!”

“I swear you enjoy this, Mirk,” Hartley cried, grabbing

Mirk around his waist as he exploded towards the roof in a

puff of billowy smoke.

“Can you fly too, sir?” a guard asked, as Dillon

watched Mirk fly right through the roof and out into the sky


“Sure I can,” Dillon said in annoyance. “I just

choose not to. Now I want those two found immediately. Get

the air patrol after them if you have to!”

“Yes, sir.”

Picard held fast to Mr. Data as the saucer section

sailed over the outskirts of San Francisco.

“I left my heart in San Franciscoooooo!” Picard

howled, cackling madly as the hull rumbled underneath him.

“Touchdown in approximately forty-five seconds,” Data

reported. “I am attempting to use thrusters to level our


“Just in case we don’t make it, I have to tell you

something, my robotic friend.”


“I love you, Data.”

“And I you, sir.”

Picard squeezed his eyes shut when he saw the bottom

of the saucer section scrape along the treetops below it.

It wouldn’t be long now.

“Touchdown in ten seconds,” Data reported calmly.

“Put this baby down, old friend!” Picard cried, as

Data tapped the final landing instructions into his panel.

With a furious rattle, the Enterprise saucer pounded

into the ground, levelling an entire forest in the process.

Picard flew forward toward the viewscreen, and would

have slammed into it, had Data not grabbed him by the back

of his frilly pirate shirt.

Everything on the bridge flew forward as the inertial

dampers tried desparately to compensate for the tremendous

decrease in speed.

Picard cried out in fear and ecstasy as the ship

thudded to a stop, kilometers outside downtown San


Outside the shattered skylight above Picard, the sun

was just starting to go down. He stared up at a flock of

gulls that soared over him, dropping a generous amount of

feces right through the skylight and onto his command chair.

Picard had to face facts. This was the end of an era.

“Come on, Data,” Picard said, rising to his feet and

dusting himself off. “We have a lot of work to do. Start

rounding up the troops.”

Briefly wondering if it was thunder that he heard in

the distance, Jaroch waited impatiently for Riker to do his

business. “Come on, Riker, do your business already.”

Riker climbed the monstrous statue of Emperor Webber

that stood in front of the palace and began getting very

familiar with it. “Boobies!” Riker replied happily.

“Whatever. Just urinate already.”

Chrissie Richards and two of the Palace guards

approached from behind Jaroch. “Come on, Mr. Jaroch. The

Happymaster wants you inside.”

“I don’t answer to the Happymaster,” Jaroch barked over

his shoulder.

The Engineer raised his phaser and poked it into Jaroch’s

back. “You’ll answer to this, won’t you?”

“You little…”

Suddenly there was a loud crash as two figures

exploded out of the roof of the palace, hurtling into the

umber sky and looping around to hurtle back toward Earth

somewhere behind the palace.

“What the hell was that?” Chrissie asked.

“It appeared to be two people flying out of the

palace,” Jaroch said plaintively.

“We’d better get back into the palace now,” Chrisy-

watty said urgently. “Come on, both of you!”

“Urg!” Riker cried, climbing back down from the


“Be careful,” Captain Kramer, the leader of the SFFP

(San Francisco Fun Patrol) said, as he climbed out of one of

the several Funfleet interceptors that had descended on the

Earth-bound saucer section. “Captain Picard is reported

armed AND unhappy. Let’s proceed with all due perkiness.”

“Okey doke, sir,” one of his lieutenants agreed,

instructing the squad to bring their phaser rifles to bear

as Kramer led them towards the bridge module atop the


“We’re going in. Instruct squads four and five to

secure the perimeter,” Kramer ordered, approaching the small

dome of glass above the bridge. He peered in, covering the

area with the beacon that was mounted on his rifle. “All

clear,” he whispered, waving the group in behind him.

Kramer slid down through the broken dome, touching his

feet down on the soft padding of the center command chair.

Suddenly the Captain of the Fun Patrol slid backward,

arms pinwheeling.

Two of the other patrol members slid in after him,

touching down to either side of the command chair, rifles

ready. They bathed the bridge in phaser fire, until Kramer

finally raised a hand, scrambling to his feet and barking

for them to stop.

“It’s groovy,” Kramer said cheerily. “I just slipped

in some bird dookie.”

“Thank goodness,” one lieutenant said.

“We were worried about you,” the other agreed, waving

the other members of the patrol inside the bridge.

“They may be belowdecks,” Kramer said, rubbing his

chin. “Scoobie, I want you to get the internal sensors

operative. I don’t want any spooky surprises. Doodle, I

want you to check the computer logs. See if you can figure

out what went down around here.”

“Yes, sir,” Scoobie and Doodle said in unison, going

about their tasks with zeal.

Kramer looked around the darkened bridge, taking in

his surroundings with a smile. No worries here. His people

were well trained. They would simply find the traitors and

apprhend them–killing some, sending the others to the

Federation FunCamp. And Picard, of course, would go

directly to the Happymaster. This assignment was bound to

get Kramer promoted, and he felt giddy at the thought of it.

Goodbye San Francisco Fun Patrol, hello, Imperial Guard.

A squeak of alarm from Doodle shook Kramer out of his


“Captain!” Doodle called out. “Look at this!”

Captain Kramer peered over Doodle’s shoulder at the

text that scrolled across the readout screen on the main

science station.



“Well, what the holy heck is that supposed to mean?”

Doodle asked, scratching his head.

By the time Kramer put the pieces together, it was too

late. All he could do was curse himself for his ignorance.

“Oh, fudge.”


With a blast that rocked the steadily darkening

California countryside, the Enterprise saucer exploded

violently, vaporizing everything for blocks.

From the safe distance of a nearby hilltop, Picard,

Data, Reggie Barclay, Bevvy Crusher, and Gorgeous LaForge

watched the saucer tear itself apart. The rest of the

surviving Enterprise crew had gathered at the foot of a

hilltop, trying to hitch a ride aboard a passing shuttle.

“Whoo hoo!” Gorgeous whistled. “That’s a hell of a


The Captain ignored Gorgeous, weeping openly. “I

shall miss that ship.”

After taking a moment to compose himself, he whirled

around, affixing the pirate hat firmly to his head. “Never

forget her, friends. Those times will never come around

again. Now, let’s set about what we have to do. By

morning, I swear to you all that the Federation of Fun will

be ours!”

Later on that evening, Emperor Webber and Happymaster

Dillon had returned to their quarters to rest up, after the

guards had reported that there was no sign of Mirk, Hartley,

or the Enterprise crew.

“Are you asleep, Travvy ?” Webber asked quietly.

“Not anymore,” Dillon sighed.

“I’m scared, Travvy . The last report I heard said that

the Explorer destroyed one of our ships, and Picard’s saucer

section destroyed the other before it crashed. What if the

rebels succeed in taking us over?”

“Not likely, Emperor. We’ve got everything under


Webber snuggled closer to Dillon and closed her eyes.

“You’re right, Snagglepuss. Thanks for making me feel


“Not a problem.”

“They’re falling asleep…” Fresca whispered down the

length of the air shaft, as Singer began hitching up her


“Perfect,” Singer whispered back. “Do you remember

what I told you?”

“Sure…just lower you down and let you do the rest.”

“But make sure you keep hold of me. The sensors in

Webber’s room can detect even the slightest movement on the

floor. If I’m going to take them both out, I need to place

the detonator directly between them.”

“Gotcha. I’m ready any time,” Fresca said excitedly.

“Okay, let’s do it,” Singer said, taking a deep

breath and checking her cables once more as Fresca removed

the ventilation cover over Webber and Dillon’s bed.

Singer climbed out and held her ropes tight as

Fresca lowered her, careful not to brush against Dillon or

Webber as she was lowered within inches of the bed.

Singer was about to place the detonator when Dillon

shifted in his sleep, rolling over noisily and slinging his

arm over Webber’s face.

Seeing that Singer was in trouble, Fresca jerked up

on the rope, which caused Singer to swing around like a


The Major looked up at Fresca angrily and gave the

signal to be lowered again as Dillon and Webber shifted again

in bed.

Singer got ready to set the detonator, and had it

almost placed on the headboard when the door to Webber’s

quarters burst open.

“Emperor, the Palace is under siege!” Manservant Jaroch

reported. He stopped dead when he saw Singer, who simply


“Hi. I’m the window washer, and I got really mixed

up,” Singer explained.

“Singer!” Dillon cried, shooting up in bed. “How

lovely to see you again!”

“Likewise I’m sure!” Singer said, shoving the

detonator underneath the covers and jerking her line. “Up,


Singer bounded up through the air, but not before

Dillon hurled the detonator up into the air duct.

“Damn!” Fresca cried from inside the duct. “I’ll get


“No! Get me up fir–” Schwarts yelled. Before she

knew it she was flying back toward the bed, right on top of


“Goodness, Becky, you’re looking well,” Webber said,

sliding out from underneath Singer.

Suddenly the detonator flew back down into the

bedroom, and Singer was jerked once again back up into the


“Ta ta!” Singer cried.

“Run!” Jaroch ordered, dragging Webber out of the room,

with Dillon hot on his heels.

Jaroch, Dillon, and Webber lept for safety, just as Webber’s

bedroom exploded in a cloud of flying debris.

“Find them!” Webber cried out. “That was my favorite

bedroom set! They won’t get out of here alive!”

“If I may, your Happyness,” Jaroch said, bowing, “we have

other problems to attend to.”

“Which are?” Dillon prodded.

“What appears to be the bulk of the Enterprise crew,

families and all, are charging the palace!”

“Sugar,” Webber muttered.

Singer and Fresca bounded out onto the roof of the

Palace, madly slapping their comm badges.

“Explorer! Come in!” Singer called out.

Fresca shook her head. “They may not have made it,


Before Singer could reply, her comm badge crackled

to life. “This…errrrt…is…Explorer,” Lt. Commander

Richards’s voice replied. “We still can’t shake that last

ship. Can’t talk long. We’re trying…zzzt…to play hide

and go seek around Earth’s sun. What do you need?”

“We need to be beamed out!” Fresca cried. “The coup

didn’t work out the way we planned.”

“It appears that Picard’s crew is taking over the

palace instead!” Singer added.

“What a turn,” Richards mumbled. “We’ll come around

to get you as soon as we can. Meanwhile, try to find Lt.

Hartley and Mr. Mirk. I’m transmitting the coordinates from

Hartley’s comm badge now.”

“Can’t you just call her yourself?” Singer asked,


“We’ve been trying. There’s no answer, and we can’t

get close enough for a beamout.”

Singer sighed. “Very well. Just hurry up. I have

a feeling Earth isn’t going to be a safe place to hang out

for long.”

Guards surrounded Webber, Jaroch, and Happymaster Dillon,

pushing them quickly through the cramped corridor toward

Webber’s Emergency Eventuality Shelter. It was actually a

bomb shelter, but Webber had felt that “bomb” was just too

harsh a word.

“Okay, what happened?” Dillon barked, bulling through

the opening door to the shelter. Webber, Jaroch, and the guards

squeezed through after him, while one of the guards slammed

a control, causing the shelter’s heavy door to grind shut.

Mistress Beck turned from her place at the shelter’s

operations array, grimacing. Kelly-bell, Tilly, Bri-Bri Gellar,

Riker, and Chrissie were with her. “Apparently, the

Enterprise crew hijacked a caravan of senior citizen tour

shuttles and used them to sneak past the Palace perimeter.”

“What about the seniors?” Webber asked worriedly.

Lisa-love shrugged. “Left to their own devices somewhere

on the outskirts of town, I guess.”

Webber clenched her fist angrily. “Those cold hearted

bastards. Those old people may freeze to death out there!”

Trying to ignore the sounds of explosions and shouting

from the palace above, Dillon turned to Webber. “We can’t

worry about the old people now, darling. We should be more

concerned about ourselves.”

“Not to worry,” Tilly said from behind Lisa-love. “This

shelter can stand a barrage of half a dozen tri-cobalt

devices. Nothing’s getting through.”

“So what do we do?” Webber asked, panicking. “Rule the

empire from down here for the rest of our lives?”

“Not at all,” Lisa-love said, a mischievous twinkle in her

eyes. “We can destroy the palace from down here.”

“Do it, then!” Dillon ordered. “Before it’s too


As if to confirm the Happymaster’s fears, a heavy thud

shook the door at the front of the shelter.

“What was that?” Webber asked fearfully.

“Trouble,” Jaroch said, suppressing a grin.

“Frere Dillon!” a muffled voice called out. “We’ve

come for you! Turn the Federation of Fun over to us right


“Do your worst, your french tart!” Dillon spat.

“You’re not getting in here!”

“That’s what you think,” Lisa-love said sweetly. Before

Dillon could stop her, the Mistress stabbed a control on the

operations panel, causing the heavy door to slide open,

admitting Picard and a slew of his troops.

“Of all the impudence!” Dillon cried, turning on Lisa-love

with anger burning in his eyes. “You’ll die for this!”

“You’re the one who’s going to die,” Jean-jean Picard

said, reaching out for Dillon’s throat.

“You’re not going to kill me,” Dillon sneered,

focusing the awesome power of his Happy mind trick on


Picard laughed with the abandon of a twelve year old

girl on a Ferris wheel. “You can’t stop me, Dillon.”

When the Frenchman’s hands slid away, Dillon realized

that Picard hadn’t wrapped his hands around Dillon’s throat

to strangle him, but to attach a psi-suppression collar to

his neck.

“God damn you, Picard!” Dillon cried, stomping his

feet with unrestrained fury.

“Settle down,” Jean-jean replied, bitch slapping Dillon

across the face. “There. Now we’re even.” He turned to

Mistress Beck. “Mistress. Why did you help me?”

“Because that twit has controlled me for long enough.

I am tired of being his lapdog, and I’m tired of watching

Webber run this Empire into the ground with her twisted,

ludicrous little ways.”

“Amen to that,” Picard said, patting Lisa-love on the

shoulder. “I have all new twisted, ludicrous ways to bring

into the fold.”

“I’m sure you do.”

Nearby, Tilly whispered to Kelly-bell through clenched

teeth. “What do we do now? Do you have the faintest idea

whose side we’re on?”

“Well,” Kelly-bell sighed, “I hate Mistress Beck, but

the vast majority seems to be leaning in her favor. We must

turn the way the wind is blowing, Tilly.”

“I don’t like it,” Chrissie muttered.

“That isn’t my concern,” Kelly-bell snapped back,

turning to Lisa-love. “Mistress, my crew and I are at your


Lisa-love looked Kelly-bell up and down with skepticism.

“I don’t trust you, Kelly-bell. And I don’t like you. But I

need a good Counselor Supreme, if I am to be Happymaster.”

She turned to Picard. “Does that suit, Emperor Picard?”

Picard laughed with girlish glee. “It’s absolutely

splendid. Now let’s get out of this dingy place and begin

redecorating the Palace. I’m seeing lots of puse and lime!”

“Tie them up and set all the photon charges in the

room,” Mistress Beck ordered, glaring back at Tilly and


“Do as she says,” Kelly-bell sighed, following Lisa-love

and Picard out of the shelter, with Lt. Bri-Bri at her side.

She’d just have to bide her time with Mistress Beck until

something better came along. One thing was for sure, she

wouldn’t be able to use her feminine wiles on Lisa-love as she

had done with Dillon.

After Tilly had tied Webber and Dillon back-to-back to

the operations console with electronic force bonds and

Chrissie had set the photon charges, both officers took

off quickly for the entrance to the shelter.

“It was wonderful serving with you both,” Chrissie

snapped, sliding the massive isolation door shut with a

metallic crank.

A tear dribbled down Webber’s face. “Oh, Travvy , this

is just awful. What will happen to us now?”

“I suppose we’ll die,” Dillon said curtly.

“I’m so afraid of death, Travvy . Say something to

comfort me. Please!”

“Webber, I’ve listened to your pedantic whining for

four years now and I’m about sick of it. Could you at least

grant me five minutes of silence before I die?”

“So this is all about you,” Webber huffed. “Don’t I

get any say in this?”

“For the love of Happyness,” Dillon muttered.

As the timer on the photon charges counted down, Webber

looked at the floor thoughtfully. “I think we made the

right choices, Travvy . Don’t you? I mean, this whole

Federation of Fun thing–it wasn’t too rash, was it?”

“It was a fine idea,” Dillon said patronizingly.

“There were just a few kinks in the implementation.”

Webber sniffed quietly and thought about that. “Well,

if we ever get a second chance I’m going to make sure we do

it right the next time.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” Dillon said. “Now please,

let’s just die in peace.

“Okay Travvy-wavvy . We’ll die in peace. You and I,

the eternal bringers of joy. The leaders of the Federation

of Fun, going out in a tremendous blaze of–”

“SHUT UP!” Dillon cried, as the counter reached one.

“Jeeze, what’s got you so–”


And the roof of the shelter thundered down on top of

Dillon and Webber as the room was consumed in flame.

“What was that?” Lt. Hartley asked, peering out the

window of the tiny windmill. She and Mirk had sought refuge

on the grounds of the Imperial Mini-golf course about the

time that Picard’s troops began to storm the palace. Their

plan was to lay low there until the dust settled, then try

to find Baxter and the others.

“Beats me,” Mirk replied, looking up at Hartley. “My

guess is that one of the groups over there has won control.

But we’d better wait a little while longer just to make


“Yoo-hoo,” a female voice said, ducking in the

entrance to the tunnel.

With a gust of psychic power, Mirk blasted the woman

away from the entrance before he could even get a look at


The woman got up and dusted off her rear end. “Ouch.

Not a very nice way to greet your rescuers.”

“Prescott?” both Mirk and Hartley asked at the same time;

Mirk looking out from the entrance to the windmill and

Hartley peering out from the tiny window at the top.

“Not the one you two know,” Fresca replied

breathlessly. “Lt. Commander Richards wanted us to try

and find you guys before beaming back. Said he had tracked

down one of your comm badges and has been calling for like

an hour now.”

“I didn’t bring a comm badge,” Mirk said, looking to


“Whoops,” Hartley said, reaching into her purse and

pulling out her badge. “I had it set to vibrate and I guess

I didn’t notice because it was in my purse. Sorry.”

“Well, now that we’ve found you guys, we have to get

you out of here,” the woman next to Fresca said. “Captain

Picard has control of the Emperor’s palace and half his crew

are guarding it. We have to cut our losses and get you all

back to your own universe now.”

“You won’t get any arguements from us,” Hartley said,

as her and Mirk slid out of the windmill.

“Singer to Explorer,” Singer said, slapping her

comm badge. “Do you guys read me?”

“We’re here,” Richards returned. “We’re going to

swing by and pick you guys up so we can get the hell out of

here. I just got word from the resistance. They’re

fighting a pitched battle with the Federation of Fun near

the Bermuda Expanse and they need all the help they can get.”


In front of the Imperial Palace, Emperor Picard ran to

join his Binky-boo, with Jaroch, Lisa-love, Kelly-bell, Tilly, and

Chrissie not far behind him.

“Riker, baby!” Picard cried out, running to leap into

Riker’s arms. “It’s so good to have you back.”

“Oooogggg,” Riker said, cradling Picard lovingly.

“I knew you wouldn’t really betray me,” Picard said


“How touching,” Jaroch said, glaring at Riker. “I thought

I had purged all that from your system.”

“You’re the only one who is going to be purged,”

Picard said sternly to Jaroch. “You shouldn’t have betrayed me

back on the Enterprise. I was going to put you in my new

cabinet…but now…”

“Now he’ll be in my cabinet,” Lisa-love said. “You’re

looking at the new Emperor.”

“Afraid not,” Picard said. “I am the new Emperor.”

Jaroch withdrew a phaser and aimed it squarely at Picard.

“You are in no position to dictate anything, Picard!”

“I thought we had put aside these petty differences,”

Picard said worriedly.

“Wrong,” Mistress Beck said, shrugging. “We used you

just long enough to get what we wanted out of you. Now, we

will command your crew to follow us and dispose of you and

this…” she sneered at Riker. “Thing.”

“Oh, I see how it is, then,” Picard pouted. “I

destroy the Emperor, offer you all positions at my side

without hesitation, and this is how I’m repaid. That’s not

very nice at all!”

“You’ve lost, Picard. Now it’s time for you to go

back where you came from,” Lisa-love spat.

“Back home to France?” Picard said, his face filling

with wonderment. “I’ve always dreamt of returning to my

vinyards.” Picard turned toward the twinkling stars of the

night sky and seemed struck by the beauty of all of it.

“I’ve seen blue skies, through the teaaarrrrs, in my

eyyyyes, and I realize…I’m going hoooooommmmme…”

“Dreadfully sorry if you misunderstood me, Picard,”

Lisa-love said, as Jaroch aimed his phaser at Picard’s back.

“But when I said that it was time for you to go back where

you came from, I referred to nothingness. A great man once

said, ‘We come from nothing, we go back to nothing. So what

have we lost? Nothing!’”

“Oh, dear,” Picard said. “There was so much I wanted

to do…so much I wanted to see…you can’t just…I won’t

let you!” Picard took off toward the huge statue of Emperor

Webber and began climbing up it.

“Pity. I was hoping this was going to be easy. As it

is, he had to break into a musical number,” Jaroch sighed,

pressing the firing stud on his phaser and blasting Picard

right in the back. The Frenchman let out a girlish shriek

and clambered to the ground, the toes of his stylish black

leather boots curling.

“Errrrrgh!” Riker cried out, running to Picard’s aid.

“Now, Riker, don’t be that way!” Jaroch called after


“Do him too, Jaroch,” Lisa-love said.

“All that work wasted,” Jaroch muttered. “I was hoping we

could fix him.”

Jaroch and the others watched as Riker slung Picard over

his shoulder and grunted in anguish, lugging him up the

statue of Webber once again.

Manservant Jaroch fired his phaser at Riker several times,

but it seemed to have no effect.

“Raise the setting!” Lisa-love cried, as Riker climbed up

to the top of Webber’s crown, with Picard in tow.

After tapping the setting up several notches, Jaroch fired

again just as Riker reached the top, beating his chest with


“Orrrrrrg!” Riker cried out, as the blast sent him and

Picard toppling back to the ground.

The group watched the two bodies thud against the soft


“I hope you’re happy, Mistress,” Jaroch muttered.

“Happy?” Lisa-love cackled. “I’m ecstatic.”


<So, anyway, we basically resent the Directors from

this universe for ripping apart their portal. It’s thrown

everything out of wack and really put us out. I mean, we

had to put off the annual squash tournament!>

Counselor Peterman let out a long sigh. The eyeball

had been talking to her for hours. The funnny thing was,

she wasn’t physically tired or hungry. That was a nifty

side-effect of hanging out with the Directors, but it was

still annoying.

<Are you listening?> the eyeball asked in annoyance.

“Sure, sure. Squash tournament. Right. So you

resent the Directors of this universe?” Peterman asked.

<That’s what I just said. If you’re going to help us

out, you’ll have to do better than that, young lady.>

“What do you want me to tell you? That you’re some

kind of heroes for interceding on their behalf and trying to

put this portal together?”

<Basically, yes.>

“Well, listen, that’s not how it works. Sometimes you

have to make sacrifices, and you can’t keep complaining

about them because then they wouldn’t really be sacrifices,

would they?”

<My, my, who’s the little firebug today?>

“You guys really have an attitude problem,” Peterman

said, letting out a long breath of annoyance.

<Exactly. That’s why we need your help. Make us

feel…joyful again.>

“I think you’re asking for a little more than I can


<Very well. Then we’ll talk some more. Maybe if I

told you about our creation…it’s really a very interesting

story involving a rather fiesty demigod from the Ursulan

star group…>

Peterman released a cry of agony as the Director

rattled on, praying for release from her confinement in the

cursed purgatory of the eyeball’s home. And the eyeball

just kept on talking.

Mirk and Hartley bent over the Happyness reversal ray,

quibbling over exactly how the jury-rigged device should be


Richards looked on, tapping his feet impatiently as

sparks flew from the machine. “How much longer?”

“Just a minute or two,” Mirk snapped. “Why? What’s

your hurry?”

“I’m tired of being in command,” Richards said,

glaring back at Baxter and Beck as they swung Dr. Browning

between them like a rag doll.

“And I’m sick of these two!” Browning muttered. “Stop

it, guys, this is making me dizzy!”

“Dizzy, dizzy, dizzy!” Beck said joyfully.

“There,” Hartley said, welding the final connection.

“This is as close as we can come to the device the alternate

Peterman used. Thanks to Mirk’s contribution of DNA, it

should put the Captain and Commander Beck back in order.”

“Should?” Richards asked.

Hartley shrugged. “Only one way to find out.”

“Do it then!” Richards snapped impatiently.

After Browning positioned Beck and Baxter in front of the

device, Mirk unceremoniously jabbed a control.

Beck and Baxter were bathed in blue light.

“This is fun,” Baxter mumbled happily to himself.

“Wheeeee!” Beck said with glee.

“If this doesn’t work we’re going to have to kill

them,” Browning grumbled.

“For their good as much as ours,” Richards agreed.

“That should do ‘er,” Hartley said, deactivating the


“Uh-huh,” Richards said, looking Baxter over

cautiously. He waved a hand in front of Baxter’s face.

“Andy…can you hear me? Are you okay?”

“Of course I can hear you,” Baxter said, slapping

Richards’s hand away. “What the hell is going on,


“He’s back to normal, all right,” Browning said. “How

are you, Commander Beck?”

Beck rubbed her head. “Confused. Wondering what the

hell has happened in the past few hours.”

“Hey, do you guys feel any powers coming on?”

Richards asked. “Levitation? Telepathy? Mind-tricks?”

Baxter blinked his eyes several times. “Powers?

Hmm…let me see…nope. How about you, Beck?”

“Unless you count my powerful headache, nothing.”

“There’s a good reason for that,” Mirk explained.

“Instead of giving them a whole strand of my DNA, I had Dr.

Browning extract specific codes. Sorry, guys.”

“How selfish of you,” Baxter mumbled sarcastically.

“Never mind the powers,” Richards said. “I think

we’d better get to the bridge.”

“I agree,” Baxter replied. “I have a feeling I missed

a lot of action while I was off in Happyland. I’d like you

to explain it all to me on the way up to the bridge.”

Richards followed Baxter out of Sickbay. “That’s a

tall order, Captain. Believe you me.”


“Mistress Beck, how good to see you,” Captain T’poo

said, standing from his seat at the center of the Buzzy’s

bridge as Lisa-love, Kelly-bell, Chrissie, Tilly, and Bri-Bri

emerged on the bridge. “We didn’t know what to do when we

heard about all the rukus down on Earth.”

“I’ll tell you what we’re going to do,” Lisa-love said,

approaching the Vulcan and folding her arms. “We’re going

to make way for Playstation at maximum speed. I understand

that the rebels are making their stand there?”

“That is correct,” T’poo nodded. “But are you sure

you can trust Picard’s people to keep things together down

on Earth?”

“They recognize my new position as Emporer,” Beck

said. “And so will you.”

“But…Webber, Dillon?” T’poo said calmly.

“Both dead,” Emporer Beck said, trying to muster some

semblance of a tear. “They fought valiantly for the

Federation of Fun and we’ll remember them well, T’poo. But

for now, we’re needed elsewhere. Set a course for the

Bermuda Expanse and engage at maximum warp.”

T’poo nodded, repeating the orders to his helmsman.

“And as for you,” Lisa-love said, running a hand along

Kelly-bell’s face. “If I have even the least suspicion that

you’re going to stab me in the back…I’ll have Mr. Jaroch here

gut you like a Saurian Salamander.”

“I wouldn’t dream of betraying you, Emperor Beck,”

Kelly-bell purred.

“Emperor Beck,” Lisa-love said warmly. “I think I’m going

to like the sound of that.”

“So, a combined fleet of Cardassian and Multek ships

was able to save the Aerostar from the Klingons. Since

then, Funfleet has sent every available ship to that sector.

It seems as though things are coming to a head pretty fast

in this universe, sir,” Lt. Commander Richards said, as

the Explorer streaked toward the Bermuda Expanse at high


Captain Baxter stumbled into the command chair

wearily. “Glad to hear Conway and my curly-haired

counterpart made it. What about the civilians that came

along with you? Lana and Bradley?”

“They’re safe belowdecks right now, Captain,”

Richards replied.

Baxter rubbed his chin and watched the stars streak by

on the viewscreen. “Given the circumstances, I’d have to

say that safe is a pretty darn relative term.”

“Captain, may I speak freely?” Mirk asked from beside


“Go right ahead, Mirk.”

“I hate this f***ing universe. I hate it with a

fiery, hellish passion.” He turned to Singer and Fresca,

who were manning ops and the helm, respectively. “Present

company excepted.”

“No offense taken,” Singer said. “We’re not too

wild about the universe the way it is right now either.”

Baxter nodded at Singer and Fresca and turned back

to Mirk. “I share your sentiments, Mr. Mirk. That’s why

we’re heading back to the Bermuda Expanse as fast as we can, so

we can stop the Happys and get the hell home.”

“What if the Happys find some way to get through to

our universe?” Mirk asked worriedly.

“I’m about ready to open a can of whupass all over

those f***ing Happys, Mr. Mirk. No way they’re getting near

our universe.”

“Do you think we stand a chance against the Funfleet,

Captain?” Richards asked.

“I don’t know. But we’re sure as hell going to find


“Mr. Dillon?” Lana asked, peering into the Deck

Fifteen lounge and looking around. “Computer, lights.”

The lights came up to reveal Bradley Dillon passed out on

one of the tables in the center of the room with a bottle of

whiskey in one hand and his pack of cards in the other.

“Whoops, sorry to disturb you,” Lana said, turning

back for the door.

“No–no, don’t leave,” Bradley said, stirring. “I found

a bottle of Aldebran whiskey in the stockroom and thought

I’d have a little nip. Why don’t you pull up a glass?”

“I don’t think so. I’m not much of a drinker.”

“Hee hee. Neither am I.”

Lana pulled up a chair and sat down, examining Bradley’s

bloodshot eyes. “Tonight appears to be an exception to the


“I really don’t have anything else to do anyway. All

those Starfleet people seem to be taking care of things

pretty easily.”

“They’re good people, if a little eccentric.”

“And here I thought they were spoiled by technology.

Turns out they need every bit of it.”

“Having second thoughts about the pioneer business,

Mr. Dillon?” Lana asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Of course not. I just never realized how hard

Starfleet officers have it. I’d hate to do stuff like this

on a daily basis.”

“Life on a starship isn’t like this on a daily basis,

thankfully,” Lana said. “Just every now and then.”

“Well, I’ll take my space station any day over this

overwired hunk of junk.”

“What about your interest in ‘exploring the far


Bradley poured another shot and downed it. “I’m going

to leave that to you guys from now on…well, and the people

that visit my shop.”

Lana stood up and turned to leave. “That’s too bad.

And I was going to ask you to explore the caverns of Breen

Six with me next month.”

Bradley tried to get up and follow after Lana, but he

just collapsed to the floor instead, slipping back into his

alcoholic stupor.

“My hero,” Lana said with a grin.

Captain Baxter looked over his shoulder at the door to

his cramped readyroom. “Come on in.”

Commander Beck stepped in and looked around the tiny

office. “What on Earth happened in here?”

“That’s anyone’s guess,” Baxter sighed, placing his

wet-dry vac back on its holster next to the desk and sitting

down. “By the looks of it, Happymaster Dillon got a little

too happy in here. With about a gallon of silly string and

one of his fellow officers.”

Beck picked up a piece of silly string reproachfully.

“Sorry to hear about that, Captain.”

“I’ll have to have the whole place sonically wiped

clean when we get back to our universe. For now, at least I

can sit down at my desk without feeling…icky.”

“The sooner we get back, the better,” Beck said,

collapsing onto the couch.

“Was there something you wanted to ask me, Commander?”

Baxter asked.

Beck leaned forward, trying not to slide on the

leather of the sofa. There was some kind of petroleum

jelly-type substance there that Baxter’s wet-dry vac hadn’t

quite picked up. “I was just thinking about this universe,

and how lucky we have it back in our own universe. Think

how difficult our jobs would be if we had to deal with a

fascist monarchy bent on mind control to deal with on top of

everything else.”

“And someone waiting to stab you in the back and take

your position at every turn…” Baxter said, nodding

agreement. “This is a scary place. I’d almost want to have

my head scrambled if I had to live here.”

“Do you remember anything about the experience? About

being… ‘happy’?”

Baxter allowed himself a little shiver. “Very little.

But enough to give me nightmares for the rest of my life.”

“All I know is that I never want to smile again.”

“That makes two of us.”

“Bradley Dillon to Commander Beck,” a slightly drunken

voice said over the comm. “Commander, can I talk to you?”

“Speaking of never smiling again,” Beck said, standing

up. “Excuse me.”

“Go right ahead,” Baxter said, grabbing his wet-dry

vac and setting upon the greasy end of the couch Beck had

just vacated.

Emperor Lisa-love Beck flipped a finger through her

hair as she examined the viewscreen.

“The Klingons are all moving toward Playstation to

help us,” Captain T’poo said, gesturing at the tactical

layout. “As are all of our loyal starships. It will be a

difficult, but fun, fight.”

“All of this discussion of tactics and strategy is

awful boring,” Lisa-love said, looking over to Jaroch.

“Do I really have to sit through it?”

“Only if you wish to, Emperor,” Jaroch said. “We are

taking care of all the details for you.”

“Good. I feel like a long massage.” Lisa-love stood up

and clapped her hands. “Mr. Jaroch…”

“As you wish,” Jaroch said, bowing and following Lisa-love

out of the room.

Kelly-bell watched Lisa-love and Jaroch leave, shaking her

head. “She’ll never make it as Emperor if all she’s

interested in is massages.”

“Do not say that too loud, Counselor,” Captain T’poo

said, taking a seat in the command chair. “Execution for

disloyalty comes about quite easily these days.”

“Chrissie, join me in the conference room, please,”

Kelly-bell said, glaring at T’poo.

“All right,” Chrissie said, once Kelly-bell was sure

that the conference room was safe. “What are you really

planning on doing in Beta Quadrant?”

“Whatever do you mean?” Kelly-bell said whimsically.

“Just doing my best to save this little old empire.”

“You have something bigger in mind. Don’t try to hide

it,” Chrissie put his arms around Kelly-bell’s waist. “I

know you better than that.”

“All right, darling,” Kelly-bell said, smiling

devilishly. “I do have something bigger planned. I want to

go into the Bermuda Expanse.”

“The Bermuda Expanse…whatever for?”

“Because, there’s a power in there greater than you

can imagine. A power that makes ruling this crumbling

empire look small by comparison.”

“And how do I fit into this?”

“You’ll have to help me convince Emperor Beck that all

my actions are purely for the good of the Empire. Can you

do that?”

“Are you kidding?” Chrissie said. “All I want is

your assurance that I’ll be getting something out of this.”

“Don’t be silly,” Kelly-bell said, leaning forward and

closing her eyes. “You have me, remember?”

“I’d like the power too, if it’s all the same to you,”

Chrissie said, pulling away.

“Ask and you shall receive,” Kelly-bell said sweetly.

“Now, will you help me or not?”

“Of course,” Chrissie said. “But if you try to

leave me behind, I’ll rat you out faster than look at you.”

Not like it will matter much, Kelly-bell thought to

herself. Once she was joined with the Directors, Chrissie

and the whole Federation of Fun would be a distant


Commander Beck found Bradley Dillon stretched out on a

couch in Deck Fifteen’s Visitor’s Lounge.

“Mr. Dillon, have you been drinking?” Beck asked with

mild amusement.

Bradley slid off the couch and collided loudly on the

floor. “As a matter of fact, yes I have. But I’m much

better now.”

“What can I do for you?” Beck asked, helping Bradley push

himself back onto the couch.

“I need to go to Waystation.”

“We’ll get you back as soon as we can.”

Bradley shook his head. “That’s not what I mean. I want

to go to the Waystation here.”

Beck sat down on the couch next to Bradley. “You mean


“If that’s what they call it. I hear my counterpart is a complete


“That’s not far from the truth. Evidently ‘Happymaster’ Dillon

tied his mind up in a knot.”

“Well, I was lying here in a drunken stupor thinking

about him, and how he hasn’t had the breaks that I have, and

I figured I had to do something to help him.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“I figured we could stop by Playstation on the way out

of here and rescue him…maybe get him some help somewhere.”

“Bradley…you’re talking about risking your neck to

meddle in this universe’s affairs. The Prime Directive…”

“Commander…if our places were reversed, I know you’d

never be able to live with yourself if you’d passed up the

chance to help your counterpart.”

“You’ve got a point there. Listen, I’ll see what I

can do.”

“Thank you, Commander.”

Before Beck reached the door, she stopped a moment.

“Mr. Dillon …forgive me if I’m wrong…but did you just

offer to risk your life for someone else?”

“Strictly speaking, I’m just looking out for myself.

Just an alternate myself.”

“Right. Then it makes sense. The world hasn’t really

turned upside down yet.”

“Give it time, Commander,” Bradley said, smiling.

“This sucks,” Captain Baxter said, as he bellied up to

the mini-bar and looked around the minuscule cabin with


“Well, Captain, the stardrive section was never

designed for comfort. That’s what we have the saucer

section for,” Richards said, stuffing another fork-full of

bannana split into Dr. Browning’s mouth.

“I sure miss Mirk’s cafe,” Baxter said with a frown.

“How do you think I feel,” Mirk said, rising up from

behind the mini-bar. “I’ve got nothing to work with here.

What do you want, anyway?”

“Just give me a large grapefruit juice and hold the

kibbitzing, Mirk,” Baxter said.

“Aye-aye,” Mirk said, ducking back under the bar.

“So…” Baxter said, watching Richards feed Browning

with interest. “I trust you guys didn’t have too much

trouble while you were held hostage by the Happys.”

“Nah,” Richards said. “They were pretty decent

folks as fascists go.”

“Here you go,” Mirk said, rising back up to hand

Baxter his glass of grapefruit juice.

“They could at least have put some pictures in here.

Or even some nice, decorative drapes. Maybe someone should

talk to Yeoman Briggs when we get back,” Browning said as

Baxter sipped at his drink.

“If we get back,” Richards muttered.

“Captain,” Commander Beck said, walking into the tiny

lounge. “There you are. I wanted to run something by you.”

“Don’t run it by too fast, I may not see it,” Baxter

said with a giggle. When he noticed no one was laughing, he

straightened. “What’s on your mind, Commander?”

Beck pulled up a chair, realizing Mirk was staring at

her. “Are you going to have a drink, Commander, or

are you just going to take up precious space?” Mirk asked,

hands on hips.

“V’haspant, extra cream,” Beck said.

“Andorian coffee? Wow, I thought only Andorians drank

that stuff,” Browning said incredulously.

Beck narrowed her eyes at Browning. “It’s an acquired

taste, Doctor.”

“But what about the horrible stomach pains that go

along with the high acid content…and the high level of

nitrates and poly–”

“You get used to it,” Beck said curtly, as Mirk handed

her the drink. “How do you know so much about it, anyway?”

Browning smiled proudly. “I’m a xenonutrition

specialist. I specialize in the dietary habits of nonhuman


“I knew I shouldn’t have asked that question,” Beck

grimaced, turning to Baxter. “Captain…I want to borrow a


“A shuttlecraft?” Baxter asked, “whatever for?”

“When we visited this universe a couple years ago, we

went to Playstation and discovered an alternate version of

Bradley Dillon that Happymaster Dillon had…abused quite a

bit. And our Bradley Dillon wants to rescue him.”

“Sounds risky to me,” Baxter said. “To say nothing of

the Prime Directive implications.”

“Is that a no?”

“Of course not. I’ve been known to violate the Prime

Directive on a few occasions myself.”

“I noticed,” Beck said. “So do I get the shuttlecraft?”

“Why not,” Baxter said through a sip of his drink.

“But Bradley Dillon is a Federation citizen. If something

should happen to him, it’s going to raise a stink with the

Federation Civil Liberties Union and all those other liberal


“Pardon me,” Richards said. “It’s those liberal

pansies that separate us from the fascist bastards in this


“Not now, Chris,” Baxter barked, looking over his

shoulder at Richards. He turned back to Beck. “You’ve

got yourself a ride, Commander. But be careful. The

station is evidently swarming with Klingons.”

“I’ve dealt with Klingons before, Captain. It’s

nothing I can’t handle,” Beck said. She neglected to say

that the Klingon she had dealt with was a cross-dresser, but

she felt that wasn’t really pertinent anyway. “Thanks for

the help, Captain.”

“Don’t mention it,” Baxter said as Beck left.

“She was pretty snippy with me,” Browning said with a

frown. “Do you think she’s still ticked about that whole

skewer thing?”

“I imagine. You almost caused the death of her

security chief,” Baxter said.

“‘Almost is the operative word there, Andy. He

pulled through,” Browning said defensively.

“Oh, well,” Baxter said. “You can’t please everyone.

Sometimes there are going to be people who just don’t like


Browning sucked on the ice cream spoon Richards had

stuck in her mouth thoughtfully. “I don’t see why that has

to be. I’m going to make it up to her. I don’t know how,

but I will.”

“Just don’t operate on her, whatever you do,” Baxter

said with a grin. He stopped grinning when a chunk of

bannana hit him square in the face.


Station Log,

Stardate 52606.3. Lt. Commander Walter Morales recording

for Commander Beck. Things have been rather quiet around

here since we sealed up the Bermuda Expanse. No ships are

scheduled to dock today other than the two Starfleet ships

that are en route to protect us should the Bermuda Expanse

reopen. Additionally, the Starship Pulitzer is arriving

shortly to investigate the phenomenon and try to find a way

to get through to the mysterious beings known as the

Directors. I can only hope that Commander Conway and his

staff go with them.

“So, you don’t like us being here,” Lt. Tilleran said

as she observed Lt. Walker’s work at the science station.

Lt. Commander Morales looked up from his log entry.

“Come again?”

“You think we’re incompetent and annoying!”

“I said no such thing,” Morales said defensively.

“Yeah, but you were thinking it!”

“You know what’s annoying? Betazoids who probe your

mind and tell you what they think you’re thinking. Isn’t

there some regulation that says you can’t probe us unless we

want you to?”

“Well, it’s a matter of courtesy, but it’s not a

regulation. Besides, I wasn’t really probing you. I just

kind of…overheard.”

“Sure, likely story. Well, overhear someone else,”

Morales grumbled. He didn’t like to be so grouchy.

That wasn’t really his way, but the crew from the Explorer

somehow brought out the worst in him.

“He’s usually not so grouchy,” Lt. Porter said, as he

and Tilleran continued to work.

“I can’t help it if my powers are a little sensitive

sometimes,” Tilleran muttered quietly.

“I think it’s kind of cute,” Porter said with a grin.

“You do, do you?” Tilleran said, smiling. Suddenly

her expression changed. “Well, I never!”

“What, what did I–” Suddenly Porter realized that

Tilleran could tell what he was thinking. “Stop thinking,

stop, stop!”

“You really need an outlet for that sexual

frustration,” Tilleran said, shaking her head. “It’s not

healthy to keep that kind of stuff pent up.”

“Stop thinking, stop thining!” Porter kept telling

himself, running into the bathroom.

“I can still read you, Craig!” Tilleran called out.

The bathroom door slid open and Porter made a bee-line

for the turbolift. “I’ll be belowdecks if you need me,

Commander Morales.”

Tilleran watched Porter disappear into the turbolift

and raised an eyebrow. “Was it something I said?”

“This has to stop,” Morales muttered.

Conway sipped at his double strong Cappucino, watching

the mallgoers pass in front of him as Larkin gave him the

status reports from the previous night.

“And there was a three percent decrease in neutrino

emissions from the Bermuda Expanse,” Larkin said. She looked

up at Conway. “Are you listening, Commander?”

“Sure, sure, Larkin. Three percent decrease. What


“The Starship Pulitzer should be here within the


“Damn,” Conway said. “I was hoping I’d be able to

avoid Lanham for another four years at least.”

“I found Dr. Lanham to be a competent scientist and a

decent person overall,” Larkin surmised.

“That’s because you weren’t married to her for eight

months. And she didn’t push you into a gorge.”

“Well, I suppose I can see how that might affect your

evaluation of her character.”

“Damn right it affects my evaluation of her


“It is said that forgiveness is divine, Commander,”

Larkin offered.

“Is there some way I can disconnect that self-

righteousness program of yours?” Conway griped.

“Of course, Commander, but why would you want to do

such a thing?”

“It was just a thought.”

Suddenly Lieutenant Porter came running out of a

turbolift. He saw Commander Conway and ran over.

“Commander! That Betazoid science officer of yours–

she keeps poking into my brain! How can I get her out?”

“Get a hold of yourself, Lieutenant,” Conway said

disapprovingly. “You are a Starfleet officer. You are

trained to deal with telepaths as a part of day-to-day life.

What if you were captured by some evil telepathic aliens

that wanted to probe your mind for Starfleet secrets? Would

you just give them up? No, sir. You’ve got to fight it!”

“But I’ve never met a woman like her, Commander. I

have thoughts about her, and I can’t seem to stop

them…it’s like she’s got this power over me I just can’t


Conway grabbed Walker’s shoulders and shook him

vigorously. “Snap out of it, Mister! You’re letting her

win. You can’t just let a woman control you like this!

You’ve got to be a man and show her that she doesn’t have

your balls in a bag, telepathy or no.”

Porter straightened and smiled weakly. “Fight back.

Right sir, I’ll do my best.”

“That’s darned right you will. Now take a few laps

around the mall and return to your post. Dismissed!”

Conway watched Porter run off with satisfaction.

“Ops to Commander Conway,” Lt. Commander

Morales’s voice said. “The Pulitzer has arrived at Docking

Arm Three.”

All the gusto seemed to disappear from Conway as he

heard these words. “Acknowledged,” he said meekly.

Larkin crossed her arms behind her back and followed

Conway into the turbolift. “Balls in a bag, sir?”

“Never mind,” Conway barked as the turbolift doors


“A shuttlecraft?” Bradley said incredulously as he

watched Beck detach the fueling servo from the rear end of

the shuttlecraft Cabral. “How are we going to get onto

Playstation with a shuttlecraft?”

“You didn’t think we’d just ring the doorbell, did

you?” Beck asked, checking her tricorder as she swept it

over the warp nacelles.

“I thought we’d transport over,” Bradley said, kicking

one of the nacelles. “Not fly at them in this hunk of

Federation junk.”

“It’s too risky to transport,” Beck explained, trying

to be patient with Bradley. “The Explorer will be flying into

a war zone. If they lower the shields for even a few

seconds, they’ll be open to heavy weapons fire.”

“They’d stand up to it better than this little

shuttle,” Bradley said. “Believe me, I used to be a used

starship salesman. I know about Federation shuttles. They

don’t hold up well to concentrated weapons fire. We prefer

to deal in ships of a higher caliber.”

Beck stopped working a moment to look at Bradley tiredly.

“And I suppose the vessels you sold were more durable?”


“And that’s why you’re persona non grata with the

Tellarites and the Alpha Centauri?”

“That was a–”

”–big misunderstanding. Yes, I know; you’ve told me

that before,” Beck said, running a hand over her face.

“Listen, Mr. Dillon, if you want to do this, you’ll have to

do it by my rules. It’s not going to be easy, and I can’t

guarantee that you’ll come out of it alive.”

Bradley threw his hands up. “Fine, fine. I’ll have to

rely on that Starfleet training of yours to get me to that

station. So be it.”

“Glad we have an understanding,” Beck said, stepping

inside the opening door at the rear of the shuttlecraft and

sliding into the pilot’s chair. “Now get your stuff loaded

up and get ready to take a crash course in shuttle


“I know how to fly a shuttle,” Bradley said defiantly.

“I told you, that was my business.”

“That may be, but like you said, you prefer to deal in

ships of a ‘higher caliber.’”

Bradley slung his duffel inside and sat down next to

Beck. “Okay, fine. Show me what this little ship can do.”

“Hello?” a familiar voice asked from outside the


Beck turned around in her chair to find Dr. Browning

peeking her head inside the shuttle. “Oh, there you are

Commander. The computer told me you’d be here.”

“What do you want, Doctor?” Beck asked, turning back

to her panel to finish the shuttle diagnostic.

“I want to help,” Browning said proudly, reaching into a

holster that was at her side. “Look, I brought a phaser and


“You’ve got to be kidding,” Beck said, turning toward

Browning again.

“I’m not kidding,” Browning said. “I may be a medical

doctor, but I’ve had Starfleet combat training, and my

sickbay has been invaded before. I’d like to say I’m a darn

good fighter for someone who’s sworn never to do harm.”

“Does your Captain know about this?” Beck asked.

“No, not exactly. My fiancee doesn’t even know.”

Beck raised an eyebrow. “Huh. And why exactly do you

want to help?”

Browning sat down behind Beck. “I thought that maybe if

I helped you and Mr. Dillon here that it might make up for

that little skewer incident.”

“Is that what this is about?” Beck said, rolling her

eyes. “Dr. Browning, that was over a year and a half ago.”

“So you’re not holding a grudge?”

“Of course not.”

“So you do like me?”

Beck gritted her teeth. Starfleet officers were not

usually given to lie to other Starfleet officers.

“Well…‘like’ is a pretty strong word. What if I told you

I tolerate you, would that be good enough?”

“No,” Browning said resolutely. “By the time this

mission is over, I want us to be great friends.”

“That’s asking a lot from a simple search and rescue

operation, but I suppose we could use your medical expertise

to help the other Mr. Dillon when we find him.”

“Great!” Browning said excitedly. “Let me just get my


“I like her, Commander,” Bradley said with a grin as

Browning ducked out of the shuttle.

“She’s already taken, Mr. Dillon,” Beck said. “Of

course, incompetent physicians with voracious appetites are

always high on anyone’s list of prospective mates. Never

level-headed, high-spirited, intelligent and attractive

station commanders.”

“Do I detect a hint of jealously?” Bradley asked.

“Of course not,” Beck said, tapping a few buttons on

her panel. “Now, this is an combat simulation. It’ll teach

you basic shuttle operations, damage control, and

maneuvering subroutines. Get to work.”

Beck sighed and turned around in her pilot’s chair as

Bradley began the simulation. She ducked out of the shuttle to

see what was taking Browning so long when she saw the Doctor

re-enter the shuttlebay, accompanied by Fresca and Singer.

“Hey, Commander!” Browning said excitedly. “I bumped

into these two in the corridor. They want to come with us.”

“We’re not running a cab service,” Beck said.

“No one said you were,” Singer replied curtly. “We

simply need a way over to Playstation. If the Klingons have

taken it over, it’s up to Fresca and I to get it back.”

“Just you two? Against a station full of Klingons?”

Beck asked, laughing. “Good luck.”

“We aren’t asking for your tactical analysis. We just

need help breaking in. Leave the rest to us.”

“Have you talked this over with Captain Baxter?”

Singer nodded. “We have his full support.”

“Well, it’s his shuttlecraft. Welcome aboard,” Beck

said, returning into the craft, Singer and Fresca on her


Browning scurried in behind them, a rather bulky backpack

slung over her shoulder.

“What do you have there?” Beck asked as she took her

chair again. “Weaponry? Medical supplies?”

Browning shook her head. “Twinkies. I brought enough

for everybody.”

“God help us,” Beck sighed. It was going to be a long


“Commander,” Admiral McGrath said, stepping out of the

airlock. “Where’s my boy?”

Conway grimaced at McGrath and looked past him to Dr.

Lanham, who stood behind McGrath at the airlock, seeming as

anxious to hear Conway’s reply as McGrath was.

“He’s at the Youth Center with the other Scouts. Listen,


“Quiet, Conway,” McGrath said. “Your Lt. Commander Larkin

can show me to my nephew. You and Dr. Lanham are going to

leave immediately.”

Conway gulped. “Me and Dr. Lanham? But, Lt. Commander

Larkin is more–”

“You heard what I said. Now get moving, Mister,” McGrath

said. “I’m going to coordiate from Waystation, with the

help of your beautiful operations officer.”

“Although I am unnaffected by compliments, I do

appreciate your remark,” Larkin said. “If you will follow

me, Admiral, the Youth Center is this way.”

McGrath took Larkin’s arm and moved off down the

corridor. “Have a lovely time, Commander!”

Conway stared after McGrath with irritation. “Sometimes

I think that man likes to antagonize me.”

“What can I say,” Lanham said with a smile. “It’s

fun. I know I enjoyed it.”

“Enough out of you, Doctor,” Conway barked. “Show me

to the bridge.”

“My, your attitude hasn’t changed much in the last

couple months,” Lanham remarked as she led Conway through

the airlock into a corridor on the Pulitzer.

“Is there any reason it should have?” Conway asked,

without looking at Lanham.

“Look,” Lanham said, turning to Conway. “I know our

marraige wasn’t exactly a fairytale, but can we at least put

our differences aside and be mature enough to go about our

mission without killing each other?”

“That depends on whether or not there are any fifty

meter gorges between here and the Bermuda Expanse,” Conway


“You never will forgive me for that, will you?”

“I almost died!”

Lanham folded her arms. “It was your own fault.”

“And how do you figure that?”

“You thought it was safe to go out on the precipice.

I tried to tell you that it wasn’t stable…but no…you had

to go prove yourself. Had to prove you were smarter than I


“That’s a load of bull and you know it. You pushed


“I was trying to pull you back!”

“Doctor?” the Captain of the Pulitzer said, turning in

his command chair.

Conway and Lanham had been so busy arguing, they

hadn’t noticed when the turbolift doors opened.

“Captain Walt Green, Commander David Conway,”

Lanham said, leading Conway out of the turbolift and giving

a hasty introduction. Green was a comfortable-looking, round-

faced, middle-aged man with a genteel southern accent.

“Pleasure to meet you, Conway,” Green said. “We

heard about what happened on the Aerostar. Pretty amazing


“Uh-huh,” Conway said. “I believe Admiral McGrath had

orders for us to leave immediately for the Bermuda Expanse?”

“Quite right.” Green led Conway and Lanham around

to the front of the bridge, where they took a place to the

left and right of the command chair, respectively. “Ensign

Delvecchio, clear all moorings and take us away from

Waystation at one quarter impulse.”

“Moorings clear…we are free to navigate,” Ensign

Delvecchio reported from the helm.

“Lay in a course for the Bermuda Expanse and engage

at full impulse.” Green turned toward Conway and smiled.

“So, you and Dr. Lanham are already acquainted?”

“Oh, yes, well aquainted,” Lanham said with a smile.

Conway grimaced. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

<So then we intertwined with several other god-like

beings from the Andromeda Galaxy,> the eyeball said

wistfully. <Oh, that was good. We don’t hear from them much

anymore. They said they would call, but then they never

did. Doesn’t that annoy you?>

“I really don’t think we’re getting anywhere,”

Peterman said finally.

The eyeball looked a little taken back. <On the

contrary, Counselor, I’ve found this quite helpful. You

just need to dig a little deeper.>

“I don’t even know what I’m doing,” Peterman said

tiredly. “This is far beyond phobias and neuroses. You

guys need a stellar physicist or something.”

<Nonsense. Chin up, there, huh? You’ll get it.>

“I don’t know. I’m starting to feel like it’s just

too much for one person to solve.”

<Hmmm. Funny. That’s what we were thinking.>

“I beg your pardon?”

<The problems are just too vast for us to solve. We

may be omnicient, but we’re not…well, the point is we’ve

been trying to solve the problems of another universe, when

we have one of our own to worry about.>

“I see,” Peterman said, rubbing her chin thoughtfully.

“So you’re trying to take on the problems of this universe,

and you’re being weakened because of that…”

<Exactly! Very good. You understand us better than

you think.>

“Yay me!” Peterman said. “So how does that help you?”

<Don’t worry yourself with that. Go get your friend

J’hana. We’ve got preparations to make.>

“What about Andy and the others…and the


<Let us worry about that.>

“All stop,” Captain Green ordered, gazing at the

churning plasma that was the Bermuda Expanse as it roiled

on the viewscreen. “Science stations, commence sanning.”

Commander Conway stepped forward and examined the

viewscreen image. “Any activity from the rift?”

“Negative,” Dr. Lanham said, looking her science

console. “We’re picking up some minor neutrino emissions,

but that can be explained by particle interactions within

the graviton matrix.”

“Sure it can,” Conway said. “But why is it changing


Lanham looked up. “Pardon me…changing color?”

“He’s right,” Green said. “Explanation, Dr.


“I…I don’t know.” Sure enough, the Fruitlands were

changing from purplish to canary yellow. “I never bothered

to look up at it. I was busy looking at the molecular scans

and the particle–”

“We don’t have time for technobabble,” Conway said.

“Keep doing your tests and report all your findings back to


Suddenly Peterman found herself inside a vast warehouse

full of marbles.

“Hello?” Peterman asked.

“Over here,” a voice called out.

Peterman looked up at the top of a huge pile of

marbles. J’hana was sitting on top of the pile and picking

marbles out. Some she threw to the left, some to the right.

“What are you doing, J’hana?” Peterman asked,

carefully crawling up to the top of the precarious pile.

“Some fat guy instructed me to separate the good

marbles from the bad marbles,” J’hana grunted. “It has

been long, tedious work.”

“Sounds like busywork,” Peterman surmised.

“That was what I was thinking,” J’hana growled.

“Hey, I hear the Directors are back on their feet!” a

loud, obese man said, emerging from a room adjacent to the

warehouse. “Good job, Counselor.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

J’hana nodded in the man’s direction. “Counselor,

this is George Sherbert. He’s the Directors’ agent.”

“Nice to meet you,” Peterman said.

“Yeah, they wanted me to tell you that you could stop

doing that now, Miss J’hana.”

“What?” J’hana asked angrily, peering down over the

pile of marbles at George. “Are you kidding?”

“Actually, heh heh, it was just some busy work to keep

you occupied while Miss Peterman talked wit the Directors.”

“Uh-oh,” Peterman said quietly.

“You little worm!” J’hana cried, tossing marble after

marble at George. “I will kill you.”

George batted marbles away from his face. “I have to

remind you, Miss J’hana, that I ain’t corporeal, just a

representation of a non-corporeal lifeform. You can’t

really hurt me.”

J’hana rolled off the massive pile and lept towards

George. “Then you have nothing to worry about!”

“Actually, the marbles do sting a little–”

The Andorian pile-drived into the squat agent and

knocked him to the ground.

An eyeball appeared above Peterman and joined her in

watching J’hana thrash George Sherbert. <Is she always this


“I’m afraid so. I’ve been trying to work on curbing

her violent urges, but she can still be pretty spicy from

time to time.”

<You certainly have a difficult job, Counselor.>

“Tell me about it.”

“Yes, Robby, we’re going to the command center. Won’t

that be fun?” Admiral McGrath asked pleasantly as the turbolift

rose through the bowels of Waystation.

“It’s about time,” Robby said. “I was cooped up with

those inferior brats in the Youth Center for far too long.”

“Now, now, those brats are your fellow Starfleet

Scouts. They’re coming to view the Pulitzer’s findings too.

Think of it as a kind of field trip.”

“But, Unkie Frank!” Robby said angrily.

“This way, Admiral,” Larkin said, gesturing for McGrath

to follow her out of the turbolift and into ops.

“Admiral,” Lt. Commander Morales said from the docking

panel. “Allow me to welcome you back to Waystation.”

“Hi yourself.” McGrath didn’t want to think about his last

excusion to Waystation, shortly before it opened for business.

“Is there any word from Pulitzer yet?”

Morales nodded. “Yes, sir, preliminary scans only so

far. But one unusual thing to report: It has changed


“Outstanding!” McGrath said excitedly. “Are you taking

this down, Robby?”

“Of course not,” Robby said defiantly. “I have a

photographic memory.”

“Lt. Tilleran, please begin coordinating with Lt.

Porter in order to interpret the Pulitzer’s scans,” Larkin

said, moving to the science console.

“Aye, sir,” Tilleran said, looking to Porter. “Are

you up to it, Mr. Porter?”

“Of course,” Porter said, folding his arms resolutely.

“I’m not afraid of you.”

Tilleran smiled. “Well, there’s no reason you should


“Uh-huh. Running a computer decompilation of the

Pulitzer’s scans,” Porter reported, running his hands over

the science panel’s controls.

“Communication coming in from Pulitzer on subspace,”

Lt. Russell suddenly reported from tactical.

“On screen,” McGrath said.

Conway appeared on the screen with Captain Green at

his side. “We’ve found something, Admiral.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t know how, exactly, but we were able to punch

through the Bermuda Expanse with an active ion scanning

beam, and we found–we found…”

“Spit it out, Conway,” McGrath said wearily.

“We found a massive fleet of varying types of ships.

I don’t know what’s going on over there, but whatever it is,

it’s big.”



Emperor Beck stalked onto the bridge. “What’s going

on out there?”

T’poo shifted uncomfortably in his command chair.

“The Klingons have control of Playstation, but we don’t know

for how long. The rebels are fighting us tooth and nail.”

“What about the Funfleet reinforcements?” Lisa-love asked.

“A task force of six funships is here already, to be

joined by some twenty or twenty-five funships that are en

route as we speak,” T’poo said proudly.

Counselor Kelly-bell stepped out of the conference

room, followed by Lt. Commander Chrissie. “Are we here


“Yes, Counselor,” Lisa-love said. “Are you ready to take

over operations on Playstation?”

“More than ready,” Kelly-bell grinned. “Has Mr. Jaroch

informed you of my backup plan?”

“Yes. I find it bold, audacious…and quite

arousing.” Lisa-love smiled. “You intrigue me, Counselor.”

“You didn’t make me Counselor Supreme for nothing,”

Kelly-bell replied. “Chrissie has already taken care of

all the arrangements. If we begin to take too many losses,

then he is prepared to initiate the plan. All you have to

do is give the word.”

Lisa-love put her hands on her hips. “Good.” She looked

at Chrissie. “But not a minute before, Chrisy. You

take your orders from me–not the Counselor.”

Chrissie smiled. “Understood, Emperor.”

Lisa-love folded her arms and watched the battle on the

viewscreen. “Well, don’t just sit there, T’poo. Have one

of the fleet ships cover us so that we can transport the

Counselor aboard Playstation.”

“Yes, your Happyness.”

“Shuttlecraft Cabral away,” Lt. Hartley reported from


“Good luck, you guys,” Baxter said quietly.

“Time to Bermuda Expanse Sector, Lt. Hartl–”

Suddenly Lt. Commander Richards appeared on the

bridge, urgently leaning over the tactical panel. “Captain,

I can’t find Janice anywhere, and the computer says she’s not

on the ship.”

“What a coincidence. We just launched a shuttle,”

Baxter said, rubbing his chin.

“She went with them!” Richards said incredulously.

“I don’t believe it. She didn’t even consult me!”

“Well, I suppose she didn’t consult anyone. Open a

channel to the Cabral, Lt. Hartley.”

Baxter turned to the viewscreen, which obediently

displayed an image of Beck and Bradley Dillon, with Singer

and Fresca hovering impatiently in the background.

“We’re kind of busy getting ready for a suicide

mission, Captain. What do you want?” Beck asked.

“Did you take Dr. Browning with you?” Baxter asked


“Actually, it was my idea to tag along,” Browning said,

sticking her head in between Bradley and Beck. “I finally

found a way to make up with Commander Beck, Chris!”

“But you could be killed!” Richards exclaimed.

“Yeah, so could the rest of us,” Commander Beck said.

“But you sure as hell didn’t seem in any hurry to stop us.”

“But I’m not engaged to any of you!” Richards replied.

“And you don’t know how much that hurts,” Bradley said

with a grin. Browning blew a kiss at Richards. “Don’t

worry, baby, I’ll be back soon! Love ya!”

The image flicked off and Baxter turned back to look

at Richards, shrugging. “Women. Can’t live with ‘em,

can’t keep ‘em on your starship.”

“I hate to interrupt this pleasant little interlude,”

Hartley said wryly from tactical. “But we’re entering a war


Baxter motioned for Richards to take the engineering

console and moved to the front of the bridge. “Go to Red

Alert. Raise shields and arm all weapons.”

“Done, sir,” Hartley replied.

“Captain,” Richards reported from engineering. “I’m

pulling up a scan of the area. It’s anarchy out there!”

“On screen,” Baxter ordered.

The screen was suddenly filled with hundreds of

battling starships: Federation, Multek, Cardassian, Ferengi,

Andorian, Romulan, Klingon, and half a dozen others Baxter

couldn’t even identify.

“The mini bar is all secure,” Mirk muttered as he

stepped out of the turbolift. He stopped short when he saw

the melee on the viewscreen. “Wow. Looks like they started

without us.”

“Better late than never,” Baxter said, looking back to

Hartley. “Alert Captain Conway that we’re here and ask him

where he needs our help most.”

“Yes, sir,” Hartley said.

“Mr. Stuart,” Baxter ordered. “Take us into the fray.”

“The what?” Stuart asked turning back.

“Never mind, just take us into the middle of the

battle!” Baxter snapped.

Counselor Peterman looked through the transparent

clouds of gas worriedly. “Can’t I get a closer look?

What’s happening out there?”

<They’re bickering again. All over control of this

little sector of space. That’s really sad,> the eyeball

said, hovering between Peterman and J’hana as they watched

the carnage.

“Well, do something!” Peterman said urgently.

<Sorry. It’s not quite time yet. Believe me, we have

some changes in mind for this little nook.>

“This is quite frustrating!” J’hana said angrily,

pounding at the clouds of swirling gas around her. “I

should be at the Captain’s aid!”

<Quiet, Andorian. You know, you really hurt George’s

feelings when you threw those marbles at him.>

“I’ll give you hurt feelings, damn it!” J’hana cried,

punching the eyeball as hard as she could.

The eyeball reeled back through the clouds, finally

steadying itself and hovering back toward J’hana.

<Well, that was quite uncivilized of you.>

“I like uncivilized,” J’hana said, pushing up her

sleeves. “Now how about we settle this honorably? I am

tired of your mind games.”

<Very well. You have bought yourself a ticket to pain

town,> the eyeball said angrily. Suddenly, massive, muscular

arms protruded from the sides of the eyeball. <Are you

rrrrrrrrrready to rrrrrrrrrrumble?> the eyeball asked in a

loud, echoing voice, as a boxing ring materialized next to


“We don’t have time for this!” Peterman shouted.

“Didn’t I teach either of you anything about conflict


“Not now,” J’hana barked, slipping on some boxing

gloves and crawling in between the ropes around the boxing

ring. “I have some business with our ocular friend.”

“For five hundred points, try and find the intelligent

one,” Peterman said quietly to herself as J’hana and the

eyeball took their separate corners.

<Rrrrrrround ONE!>

“Hold on, guys,” Commander Beck said, expertly

weaving the Cabral around Playstation’s upper saucer.

“This is going to be tricky.”

Bradley Dillon gripped the panel in front of him and held

on tight as the shuttle rocked with fire from Playstation’s

defensive perimeter. “I have every faith in you, Commander!”

Dr. Browning balanced herself in between the two front

chairs. “Not that I don’t have faith in you, took, Commander,

but you do have a plan on how to get us in, don’t you?”

“Of course I do,” Beck said, pausing as she wheeled

the Cabral around another tricky corner. “Playstation is

more or less constructed exactly like Waystation was before

its renovation: two Constitution-class saucer sections and a

connecting tube. It may have some additional bells and

whistles, but I still know how to find its weak spot.”

Major Singer winced as another blast rocked the tiny

shuttle. “And how do you propose we exploit this ‘weak


“There should be a cargo bay on the lower saucer.

It’s designed for taking in grain stores and organic

supplies. It’s not very well shielded or protected, since

the goods inside aren’t high-priority.”

“But what if it’s different in this universe?” Bradley asked


“Then we’re in trouble. Then again, they have to keep

their organics somewhere, right?”

“Right,” Fresca said. “So should I get ready to

activate the transporter?”

“Two minutes ago I would have said yes,” Beck said,

pitching the Cabral forward over the edge of the upper

saucer and flying along the length of Playstation towards

the bottom of the lower saucer.

“What happened two minutes ago?” Bradley asked.

Beck ducked as a panel beside her exploded. “One of

these many colorful phaser beams hit us and took out the


“How the heck are we going to get in, then?” Browning

asked worriedly.

Beck rolled the Cabral so tightly that Browning and the

others almost lost her balance. “The old fashioned way.

We’re going to put full power to the deflectors and we’re

going to punch through the cargo bay door.”

“We’re going to…what?” Bradley asked, gripping the

panel tighter.

“Don’t worry, those saucers were taken from

Constitution class ships. The duranium is of a slightly

lesser grade then what most people use today. Me might get


“MIGHT?” Singer asked frantically.

“Well, we’ll find out…um, right now! Hold on!” Beck

cried, ducking as the Cabral shot toward the cargo bay door

on the belly of the lower saucer and punched right through.

“We’re really taking a pounding, Captain Baxter,”

Captain Conway said from the viewscreen, gripping one of

the consoles on Aerostar’s bridge. “The Happys called in every

starship from here to Rigel Seven to help them. Both sides

are pouring on everything they have, but it doesn’t look

good for us.”

Baxter grimaced as the Explorer was pounded by enemy

fire. “That was before the Explorer joined in. Don’t you

worry, Captain. We’ll have these happy sons of bitches

smiling all the way to the pain bank when we’re through with


Lt. Hartley looked over at Richards quizzically,

mouthing the words “pain bank?”

Richards just shrugged.

“Thanks for all your help, Captain. Good luck,” Davey-

wavey said, disappearing from the viewscreen. In his

place was a view of the rear of a Klingon Battlecruiser that

the Explorer was tailing through the mass of battling ships.

“I want those maneuvers tighter, Ensign!” Baxter

cried. “We should be smelling our own exaust, get it?”

“Pushy pushy. You recall I’m not even posted as a

helmsman,” Stuart said. “I’m doing my best.”

“That ain’t good enough, buster!” Baxter said. “Our

rear is getting singed, here!”

As if to punctuate that statement, Richards’s

engineering panel lit up like a Christmas tree. “Captain,

the shields are taking a pounding!”

“Lt. Hartley, get us some room to breathe,” Baxter

ordered. “We’re not going to win this by being pansies!”

Hartley fired spreads of quantum torpedoes at the

Klingon ships that were descending behind them and leaned in

Richards’s direction. “He’s being awful agressive today,

isn’t he?”

“He was achingly happy for several hours,” Richards

explained. “He has to balance that out somehow.”


Commander Beck rolled out of the wreckage of the

Cabral, rubbing her aching toushie and bringing up her

phaser rifle, firing at the two Klingons that rushed into

the cargo bay. That seemed a good sign that the Klingons

were in control of Playstation. Beck desperately hoped that

she was wrong.

“Is everybody okay?” Beck called into the

shuttlecraft, peering down the corridor outside the cargo

bay and making sure no one was coming.

Phaser rifles at the ready, Singer and Fresca

emptied out, with Browning and Bradley on their heels.

“Oh, I’ve never been better. Can we do that again?”

Browning said sarcastically.

“We’d need another shuttlecraft,” Bradley replied, taking

stock of the ruined Cabral.

“No more chatter,” Beck said, ducking back into the

Cabral. “It’s time to put the plans into motion.”

“Plans? What plans?” Bradley asked. “We have plans?”

“Sure do,” Beck said from within the shuttle.

“When were you planning on sharing them with me?” Bradley

asked in annoyance.

“Right about now,” Beck said, stepping out of the

shuttle. “What do you think?”

Bradley looked at Beck’s attire and turned to Browning. “Do

you know anything about psychology, Doctor? Is she nuts?”

“I don’t know. You know Commander Beck better than I

do,” Browning said, looking Beck up and down.

While Fresca secured the outer corridor, Singer

looked over at Beck’s catsuit, heavy makeup and fluffed

hair. “You make a pretty good sadistic mistress,


“Thank you,” Beck said cattily, batting her

lenghthened eyebrows. “Maybe if I can convince these

Klingon numbskulls that I’m my counterpart it’ll give us an


“You may be right, Commander,” Major Singer said, as

Fresca returned from the outer corridor. “Well, Fresca?”

“This section is clear. What now?”

“You and I will head up to Ops and try to retake

control of the station.” Singer turned to Beck. “And I

assume you three will try to rescue the alternate Bradley?”

“Darn right,” Bradley replied.

“I might as well apologize in advance,” Singer said

reluctantly. “We never really got around to helping him.”

“But you’ve had a year!” Beck protested. “And you

said you would put his marbles back in order!”

“Other things came up!” Singer said. “You know how

it is. Listen: you can find him in his normal cell in the

Funtimes Mall. But I should warn you…if the outer rim of

the saucer is clear, the mall is probably crawling with

Klingons. You’ll be lucky to get out of here alive.”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” Beck said, gesturing to

Bradley and Browning. “Now let’s get going. This vinyl is really


“It is a good day to die,” J’hana growled, pummeling

her fists into the eyeball. “Are you prepared?”

<I’m omnicient, you imbecile. I cannot die.>

J’hana pounded some more. “Only one way to find out,

damned eyeball!”

“Stop it, you two! This is insane!” Peterman cried

from the sidelines.

“Peanuts, wiener dogs, popcorn, sodas!” George

Sherbert called out. He now sported a black eye and was

attired in a red and white striped server’s uniform.

“No thank you,” Peterman said, watching the eyeball

knock J’hana flat on her back.

A loud bell clanged throughout the cloudy canary domain

of the Directors.

<Rrrrrrround TWO!>

“Mistress” Beck dragged Dr. Browning out of the turbolift

and out into the Happy Funtimes Mall, whispering to Bradley,

“I’ll distract the security, you go find your counterpart!

He’s where your shop should be!”

“No problem, Commander!” Bradley said, withdrawing his

phaser and moving off through the mall.

As Beck dragged Browning through the mall, she noticed

that it seemed pretty quiet. She figured that it would be

busy what with the battle between the Klingons and the

rebels, but evidently one of the two sides had won.

Hopefully it was the rebels. If that was the case, it would

make her job much easier.

“Emporer Beck!” a Klingon cried out heartily, emerging

from the wreckage of what used to be some sort of shop. It

seemed as if he’d been scavenging for spare parts. “I

thought you were on the Buzzy!”

Emporer? Beck thought, taking stock of the Klingon.

Things change so quickly around this universe. Mistress Beck

had obviously been promoted to Emperor in the shake-up on

Earth, and it appeared that the Klingons had in fact taken over

Playstation. Beck quickly batted her eyelashes at the lumbering

Klingon and smiled flirtaciously. “Well, what can I say, I couldn’t

help but show up and give a hand.”

“Got yourself a prisoner, huh?” he asked, elbowing

Beck hard in the gut as he stared at Dr. Browning. “Want to

put her in with the rest or keep her for yourself?”

“I’ll keep her,” Beck said.

“Still up to your old tricks, huh?” the Klingon asked


“Well, you know what they say–” Beck said, when

suddenly a high pitched whine sounded from behind the

Klingon and his chest began to glow orange.

The Klingon toppled forward to reveal Bradley Dillon

standing behind him. “Takes a hell of a blast to topple one

of these guys,” Bradley said, holstering his phaser.

Beck stared down at the Klingon with satisfaction.

“Ever thought of joining Starfleet security Mr. Dillon?”

“Nope. It has great benefits but the pay is lousy.

Now come on. I’ve found the other me and he’s not in the

best of shape.”

Gesturing for Dr. Browning to follow her, Beck took off

toward the abandoned storefront where the alternate Bradley

Dillon was located.

Dr. Browning followed Beck into the storefront and

withdrew her tricorder.

“Singer was right. He looks the same as he did last

time I saw him,” Beck said, shaking her head.

Braddie Dillon was curled in a fetal position, in

nothing but diapers and a bib.

“Thbbbbbbbbbt,” Braddie said, rubbing his finger

furiously over his lips. “Thbbbbbbbbbt thbbbbbbt thbbbbt.”

“He’s whacked all right,” Browning said, standing up and

pocketing the tricorder.

“Can you do anything for him?” Bradley asked worriedly.

“I don’t know…the bonds between his brain cells are

breaking down. It looks like the effects of an active

psychointensive brainscan. Probably done by a Betazoid.”

“The late Counselor Troi’s handiwork, no doubt,” Beck

grumbled. “Between her and the Happymaster, his mind was

royally screwed.”

“We need to get him out of here,” Bradley said, looking

up to Beck.

Beck nodded. “I couldn’t agree more. I wouldn’t mind

getting out of here myself.” She slapped her comm badge.

“Beck to Explorer. We have the alternate Mr. Dillon, but we

haven’t been able to locate the bulk of the Klingon

occupying force or any of the rebels. How should we

proceed, Captain?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Commander Beck. We

have problems of our own out here.”

Suddenly the storefront exploded open, knocking

everyone inside the gutted room to the floor.

“There they are,” Counselor Kelly-bell said wickedly,

rubbing her hands together. She was flanked by several

heavyset Klingons. “I knew those two rebels couldn’t have

found their way in here on their own.”

“Who are you?” Beck asked.

“Counselor Supreme Kelly-bell Peterman,” Kelly-bell

said, smiling cattily. “I’ve heard all about you and your

friends from the other universe. Sounds like a nice place.

I may conquer it one of these days. But there will be time

enough to talk about that later. Right now we’re going to

take you to visit your pals from the resistance. I think

they’ve missed you, darling.”

“And this is called the science station,” Admiral McGrath

said pleasantly, as the crowd of little Starfleet scouts

squirmed around to see Lt. Tilleran and Lt. Porter work.

“This station is responsible for coordinating all the

scientific data that Waystation’s sensors recieve.”

“Hi, fellas,” Lt. Porter said. “Ever seen a subspace


“Boring!” Robby said. “I want to see the quantum

torpedo arming controls.”

“Sorry, buddy, that’s restricted to authorized

personnel. How about taking a look at our docking

controls? Or the environmental science console?”

“Boring, boring, boring!” Robby said.

“Charming kid, huh?” Porter said, looking to Tilleran.

“He’s afraid of teddy bears,” Tilleran said with a

smile. “Because he visited a zoo once that had a Vulcan

predatorial teddy bear and it escaped and almost killed

three people.”

“You got all that from a reading?”

“Yep,” Tilleran replied. “It’s all in the proximity

and brainpower of the person you’re scanning.”

“Fascinating,” Porter said, looking into Tilleran’s

deep, dark eyes. “What are you doing for dinner tonight?”

“Lieutenant!” Lt. Commander Morales called out.

“Where’s that scan?”

“Oh…the scan,” Porter said sheepishly. “Right.”

Dr. Browning let out an annoyed squeak as she landed

in the crowded room. “Where are we?”

Beck winced and rubbed her rear end as Peterman and

her Klingon escorts turned to leave. “On our Waystation,

this would be a storage facility for contraband weapons and

other materiel confiscated by security.”

“It was the only place big enough and secure enough to

stick us,” Colonel Lazlo said, moving to shake Commander

Beck’s hand. “We didn’t have much time to talk the last

time you were here, Commander. I hope you’ll forgive that


“I keep forgetting how truly different things are over

here,” Beck said, smiling at Lazlo.

“I take it you guys didn’t make it to Ops?” Browning

asked, looking to Fresca.

“Not exactly. We were captured by the Klingons about

five minutes after we left you guys.”

“Enough chit-chat,” Singer said brusquely. “We need

to find a way out of here.”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible,” Lazlo said. “They

have a class three forcefield surrounding us. Even if we

had phaser rifles, we wouldn’t be able to get through with

all of them combined.”

“Then we just sit here?” Bradley asked, as his

counterpart rocked back and forth and babbled incoherently

to himself.

“I suppose so,” Beck said wearily. “So much for our

rescue operation.”

Counselor Kelly-bell marched out into ops and looked at

the battle taking place on the viewscreen. “What’s our

status, Punjab?”

The Klingon shook his head, giving Kelly-bell an “I’ve

been a bad boy” look. “Not good. Estimates show that the

rebels will overcome our defenses within the hour.”

Emperor Beck appeared on the viewscreen, looking

extremely angry. “Kelly-bell! Have you found the imposter?”

“Yes, we have her,” Kelly-bell replied snidely. “But

we have bigger problems than that right now, don’t we?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact,” Lisa-love said, annoyed.

“We’re taking a real licking here, and I mean that in a bad


“Then we need to enact our option play now,” Kelly-bell

said firmly.

“All we need to do is free up two more starships and

we’ll be ready,” Emperor Beck said.

“Sounds good,” Kelly-bell said, carressing the arm of

one of the Klingons beside her. “It’s time to take this

show to a new part of town, Punjab.”

“Captain!” Lt. Hartley called out. “Three of the Happy

starships are regrouping around Playstation.”

Baxter rubbed his chin. “What are they up to?”

“Maybe they’re just getting their weapons reloaded,”

Lana offered.

“No, they’re running with their shields up, and

they’re configured for…” Hartley said, and stopped


“What is it, Hartley?” Baxter asked impatiently.

Hartley’s brow creased in confusion. “Sir, they’re

activating tractor beams.”

“They’re going to move Playstation!” Mirk said.

“But move it where?” Richards asked.

“Where do you think?” Baxter said, his voice tinged

with alarm. “They’re going to try and take it into our


“Affirmative,” Hartley replied. “They’re moving off on

a heading of 181 mark 223 at full impulse. Directly for the

Bermuda Expanse.”

“How long until they get there?” Baxter asked, his

voice crisp with worry.

“Forty-five minutes at that speed,” Hartley said.

Richards swung around to the lower deck to face

Baxter. “Then we still have time to stop them!”

“Agreed,” Baxter said, turning his head back to the

tactical console. “Lt. Hartley, open a channel to the



“This is Captain Andy Baxter from the Explorer.

The Happys are attempting to move Playstation through the

Bermuda Expanse. Regroup around their perimiter and

stop them.”

“Response coming in from the Aerostar, Captain,”

Hartley reported.

“Captain Baxter,” Davey-wavey said worriedly. “I

sympathize with your plight, but these Klingon

battlecruisers outgun our Cardassian and Multek ships three

to one. We don’t have any resources to spare!”

“Then improvise, damn you!” Baxter said.

“Stuart…move to intercept those three starships towing

Playstation. We may be on our own!”

“Something is wrong here,” Counselor Peterman said,

watching J’hana and the eyeball fight. “You’re not like the

Directors I remember.”

<Of course we are,> the eyeball said, jabbing J’hana

with a hard left and a right follow-up. <If it weren’t for

us, the Bermuda Expanse would be a mess right now.>

“That’s just it. The Bermuda Expanse IS a mess right

now. And despite all your powers, you still can’t stop this

area of space from malfunctioning, can you?”

The eyeball stopped boxing a moment. <It’s not

malfunctioning. It’s working just fine.>

“The hell it is. I want some answers now, eyeball!”

J’hana said, trying to catch her breath.

<Hey, look over there…it’s a space station!> the

eyeball said suddenly, prompting Peterman and J’hana to turn


Peterman saw a dot through the clouds of the Bermuda

Expanse approaching them, and for some reason it gave her

a very uneasy feeling. That uneasy feeling grew worse when

J’hana slammed into her.

<Bring it on!> the eyeball shouted.

“Counselor, if you would,” J’hana said, staggering to

her feet and climbing back into the ring. “I could use some


Peterman approached the ring. “Really, I’m flattered

that you think–” Peterman stopped talking when J’hana

reached out and dragged her into the ring.

<Rrrrrrrrrrrround THREE.>

“Baxter to Beck. What’s your status?” Baxter asked

urgently. “Baxter to Beck…we have a situation here. We

need your help.”

“No response,” Hartley said, looking up from the

tactical panel. “They must have been captured,” Richards

said worriedly.

“Damn,” Baxter said. “Is there any way to stop those

tractor beams, Porter?”

“I don’t know,” Richards said, looking down at the

engineering scans. “If we could generate a strong enough

field of antigravitons around the station, we may be able to

break it free.”

“Do it,” Baxter said.

“Ensign Stuart, I’m going to need your help,”

Richards said. “I’m going to have to reconfigure the main


“What about the helm?” Stuart asked, steering the

Explorer around a series of phaser blasts from Playstation.

“Hey everybody, what’s up?” Lana asked, stepping out

of the turbolift.

“We need someone at the helm!” Baxter barked.

“Oh,” Lana said calmly, sliding into place at the helm

as Stuart rushed to help Richards. “Sure, I can handle


“Oh, that’s great. So one of your hosts was a

starship pilot,” Baxter said with relief.

“Not exactly.” Lana pulled the Explorer into a roll.

“He was a crop duster.”

“I’m feeling better about this already,” Hartley said


Counselor Kelly-bell watched the Explorer come at them

on the viewscreen. “You won’t stop me, you unhappy


<Come on, Kelly-bell. We’re here for you,> They said,

Their voices echoing throughout Counselor Kelly-bell’s mind.

<All is in readyness. Just get a little closer…>

“I’m coming, my darling eyeball…we’ll be together

soon!” Peterman said, leaning toward the viewscreen


“What’s that, Counselor?” Punjab asked.

“Oh, nothing.”

“How much longer, Richards?” Baxter asked, tapping

his foot nervously and watching the carnage on the


“Stuart still has to manually release the forward

relays. Another few minutes.”

“We have plenty of time, Captain. They’re still about

thirty-five minutes away from the Bermuda Expanse,” Hartley

said encouragingly.

“Yeah. You’re right, Hartley,” Baxter said. Why was

he still worried?

Suddenly, Baxter heard a huge gasp beside him.

Baxter raised an eyebrow. “Indigestion, Mr. Mirk?”

“Not exactly, sir,” Mirk said, rubbbing his temples.

“I’ve been getting confused signals from the Bermuda Expanse

ever since we crossed through to this universe. And I think the

Directors were somehow responsible for Lt. Hartley and I

being transported to Earth.”

“Cut to the chase, Mirk.”

“Well, I’ve been trying to figure out why we were

transported there, and what all the stuff I’ve been getting

from the Bermuda Expanse could mean…”


“Captain…they’re not as messed up as we think.

Well, they’re messed up all right, but not in a harmless

way. They’re…they’re….”

“Spit it out, Mirk!”

“They’re happy.”

Baxter collapsed back into his chair. “Saints

preserve us.”


<Well well well, I guess you all were smarter than I

thought you were, yes indeedie,> the eyeball said, staring

across the boxing ring at Peterman and J’hana.

“So who are you, anyway, if not the Directors?”

Peterman asked.

<We’re the Directors, to be sure, but not your

Directors. We belong to this universe, and are as afflicted

as this universe is, thanks to your lovely Aerostar.>

“So what was all that stuff you put us through for?”

J’hana asked.

<For fun,> the eyeball explained. He turned

to Peterman. <I have a certain affinity for your

counterpart, Counselor. Charming gal, charming gal. You’ll

get to meet her soon.>

“I don’t think I want to meet her.”

<Too bad. She’s on her way.>

“And where are the sane Directors, huh?” Peterman

asked defiantly. “Why don’t they come here and kick your


<Oh, them? They’re detained at the moment,> the eyeball

said happily. I’m afraid you won’t get to visit with them.

“Well, the eyeball is omnicient, and we’re not,”

J’hana said. “I hate to be a pessimist, but…well, it

doesn’t look good.”

“Stuart to Richards. Antigraviton emitter ready!”

Upon hearing this, Baxter looked back to Richards.

“Let ‘er rip, Commander!”

“Aye, sir,” Richards replied, hitting a control at

his panel.

Lana steered the Explorer around Playstation and

behind the three starships that were towing it as Richards

released the antigravitons.

Energy crackled along the tractor beams as they began

to fail and dissipate.

“It’s working!” Baxter cried. “Good job, Commander.”

“Happy ships breaking off,” Hartley reported. “Coming

at us, sir.”

“Evasive maneuvers,” Baxter said. “And ready a spread

of quantum torpedoes. Target them on Playstation’s main

reactor. Maybe we can give our people over there a hole

card to work with.”

Punjab smashed the tactical console with his fist.

“Counselor, they have rendered the tractor beams


Kelly-bell didn’t reply. She closed her eyes and

reached out for the Directors. “Come get me, darlings,” she

cooed. “I’m ready to party with you.”

Suddenly Playstation rocked with explosive impacts.

“Several direct hits to the main reactor!” Punjab

cried out. “Main power failing.”

“Mmm hmmm,” Kelly-bell said sensuously. “Come on,


The Bermuda Expanse reached out towards Playstation.

Commander Beck steadied herself against a bulkhead as

Playstation rocked. “What the hell was that?”

“Quantum torpedoes by the sound of it. About a dozen

of them,” Singer said.

The lights inside the giant holding cell began to


“Main power is failing!” Lazlo said.

“Does that mean we can get out of here?” Bradley asked.

“Damn right we can,” Fresca said, reaching toward the

door and feeling around to make sure there was no

forcefield. “Our friends out there managed to take out the

whole power relay system.”

Suddenly the Klingon guards who had been posted

outside the holding cell stormed in, raising their betleths

high and letting out impressive, if slightly effiminate,

battle cries.

“Time to put that Starfleet battle training to good

use, Doctor,” Beck said, ramming her clasped hands into the

gut of the closest Klingon, causing him to drop his betleth.

Dr. Browning reached out and grabbed the betleth as it

fell, jabbing it into an onrushing Klingon. “Cool!”

“Come again?” Baxter asked, turning back to Hartley.

“I said Playstation is moving again,” Hartley said.

“How hard is that to comprehend?”

“But how?” Baxter asked.

“Just as I feared,” Mirk said worriedly. “The

Directors are omnicient, Captain, whether they’re crazy or

not. If they want Playstation to go through the Bermuda

Expanse, they’ll find a way to get it through.”

“So now we’re fighting gods,” Baxter said, running a

hand over his face. “That certainly ups the ante a little.”

“We can’t defeat omnicient beings,” Lana said from the

helm as she worked frantically to evade the three starships

that had been towing Playstation.

“No, but I know someone who can,” Baxter said.

“The Directors from our universe?” Mirk asked.

“Yeah, where have they been through all this?”

“Good question.”

“Can you find out?”

“I can try,” Mirk replied, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Calling the Directors…come in Directors!”

“Maybe they changed their number to an unlisted one,”

Lana offered.

“Just steer, Lana,” Baxter commanded. “Anything,


“Hold on,” Mirk said, “I think I’m getting something.”

The air crackled around the diminutive Maloxian,

shimmering with purple electricity.

<Hi,> a hearty voice said. Baxter leaned forward

expectantly. <We’re not in the Bermuda Expanse right now.

Please leave a message at the tone and we’ll get back to you

as soon as possible. Buhhhh-bye! Beeeeeeep!>

“Damn,” Hartley said, pounding the tactical console.

“You got their machine.”

Before Mirk could even register a reaction, a huge

vortex opened around him.

“You don’t see that every day,” Richards said.

The Maloxian staggered away from the vortex, and

was immediately seized by a meaty hand, which promptly

yanked him through.

“Mirk!” Baxter cried, moving forward, just as the

vortex winked out of existence like a television being

turned off.

“Guess he found something,” Hartley remarked.

<Someone else to play with!> the eyeball said happily,

pounding Mirk across the boxing ring.

Mirk landed roughly next to J’hana and Peterman.

“Welcome to the Bermuda Expanse, Mirk,” Peterman said.

“Fancy seeing you here.”

“What are you guys doing here?” Mirk asked.

“I’d love to go into it, but that eyeball is coming at

us right now–” Peterman said, as the eyeball grabbed Mirk

by his throat and hurled him across the ring again.

Mirk grabbed the rope around the ring and pulled

himself up. “What did you do with the real Directors?”

<I sent them on vacation,> the eyeball explained. <They

needed time off, anyway.>

“Why you little–” Mirk said, pushing up his

shirtsleeves. “No one messes with my god-figures and gets

away with it.”

<Ooooh, I’m sooooo scared!>

Suddenly Mirk lept across the ring and drove himself

into the eyeball, sending it flying into J’hana and


<My, you’re a strong little fella,> the eyeball said, pushing

off J’hana and Peterman and slamming into Mirk. <The

Directors have trained you well.>

“Directors!” Mirk cried out, leaping about fifteen

meters into the air and diving back down onto the eyeball.


<This line has been disconnected,> A nasal, disembodied

voice said.

“I know there must be another way to reach them,” Mirk

said, ducking a punch from the eyeball.

<In these modern times, there’s always a way to reach

the ones you love,> the eyeball said sweetly, pounding Mirk

roughly into the mat. <Too bad you won’t be alive to reach

them for much longer.>

“Slam him, Mirk! Kick his ass!” J’hana called out.

Mirk staggered away from the eyeball, trying to think

of a way to reach the Directors. Suddenly it came to him.

“Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” Mirk asked, squeezing

his eyes shut and concentrating.

<What are you doing? No, don’t do that!> the eyeball

cried out, grabbing Mirk and shaking him.

<Please enter the number you wish displayed,> came a

nasal voice.


eyeball squeezed.




<More sunblock, please,> the Director said, as one of

the Ovaltines rubbed the greasy substance into the red-veiny

area around the iris. She was a semi-corporeal lifeform

made entirely of argon gas and silicates, but she had a

wonderful way of manipulating protomatter. <Oh, that’s

great. Keep rubbing.>

Suddenly the eyeball became aware of a distinct

vibrating from underneath it. <Are you doing that,

Vxxxxxxrrrrrrrrn? No? Well, then who in the Galaxies is?>

The Director shifted a bit inside the nebulous gas

cloud and pulled a tiny black box out from underneath it.

<Oh, wouldn’t you know, our pocket pager. I was sure we’d

left this back in the Bermuda Expanse. I wonder who could be

paging us?> The Director examined its pager and went wide with

amazement. <I’ll be darned. I wonder what he’d want with

us? Better check it out>.

Vxxxxxxrrrrrrrrn swirled in consternation.

<Now now, don’t be difficult. This might be important.

We promise we’ll be back as soon as possible. Keep that sun

warm for us!>

“Captain, Playstation is increasing speed. It will be

inside the Bermuda Expanse in three minutes!” Lt. Hartley cried


“Damn,” Baxter cursed. “Increase speed to warp one.

Cut them off!”

“What about Mirk? Any sign of him?” Richards asked.

“I’m getting intermittent readings from inside the

Bermuda Expanse…some kind of life-forms. Sir…how could life

exist in there?”

“Trust me. It can.”

“Aerostar to Captain Baxter,” Davey-wavey’s voice came

over the comm. “Captain. We’ve noticed a distinct change

in the movements of the happy fleet. They’re all going

toward the Bermuda Expanse!”

“Of course they are,” Baxter said. “It all makes

sense now. Don’t you see? If the Directors are under

control of the Happys, they can let their ships through

without a problem and destroy ours at the same time!”

“Then how the hell will we get back to our universe?”

Richards asked.

“Kill the gods?” Hartley offered.

<Your powers may be strong compared to these humans,

Mirk, but compared to one of us you’re just an annoying

eyelash,> the eyeball said as it loomed over Mirk menacingly.

<Prepare to be plucked!>

Suddenly the Bermuda Expanse was filled with the sound

of a door being slammed. <Hello? Who’s in there? And who’s

responsible for this mess? The place looks awful!>

“Yes!” Mirk said triumphantly. “In here, guys!”

<Uh-oh,> the happy eyeball said, staggering back as

another eyeball glided into the boxing ring.

<Well, you’re a sight for sore eyes,> the normal eyeball

said. <What’s going on here?>

“He’s whacked in the worst way, Director,” Mirk said.

“He’s trying to destroy our normal universe by sending

people from the happy universe through.”

“And he made me sort marbles for three hours,” J’hana


<Well, that’s just not kosher, is it?> the eyeball said.

<Why don’t we sit down and have a nice chat about this,


The eyeball suddenly began to vibrate disturbingly.

It was turning a bright yellow.

<Uh-oh,> the normal eyeball said, backing away. <He’s

jaundiced! Get away, kids!>

“Move it, guys!” Mirk grabbed J’hana and Peterman and

flew them out of the ring, just as a black smile and two

large oval eyes began to form on the yellow eyeball.

<HAVE A NICE DAY!> the yellow-eye said with an evil

shriek of laughter.

The two eyeballs slammed together, grappling like two

mighty titans of Greek myth.

<Rrrrrrrrrrround FOUR!>

Commander Beck burst out of the turbolift and out into

ops, swinging her betleth menacingly into the nearest


Browning, Singer, Lazlo, Fresca, and the two Bradleys

soon followed, looking equally ticked.

“Hold them off just a little while longer!” Kelly-bell

cried out, climbing on top of the environmental station in

order to avoid a swinging betleth. She was too close now to

be stopped.

“Our shields are down to three percent!” Hartley called

out as another blast from the Buzzy slammed into the

Explorer. “But we have managed to short-circuit

Playstation’s shields altogether.”

“Time to Bermuda Expanse?”

“One minute, fifty seconds.”

“Damn,” Baxter said, clenching his fist and pounding

the arm of his chair. “We’re going to have to take out that

station before it reaches the Bermuda Expanse at all cost. Lt.

Hartley, ready two tri-cobalt devices. If we can’t stop

Playstation, we’ll blow it up.”

“And kill everyone aboard, including the good guys?”

Lana asked.

“I’ll destroy this ship before I let one happy bastard

into our universe,” Baxter said angrily. “Mr. Richards,

where are our people?”

“They’re all grouped in ops. And it appears that the

alternate Peterman is there too.”

“Maybe we can at least stop them from going through.

Lt. Hartley, charge phasers to full power and aim for the

joint connecting ops to the rest of the station.”

“Aye, sir,” Hartley said. “Phasers targeted.”

“Richards, lock a tractor beam onto the operations

center and reel them in as soon as it’s detached.”

“Tractor beam ready.”

“Fire, Lieutenant Hartley!”

Beck yanked Kelly-bell down from her perch atop the

environmental station, digging in with fingernails and

slamming her into the deck. “You’re not getting out of this

one, Counselor!”

“I beg to differ,” Kelly-bell said, watching the

Klingon behind Beck swing his betleth towards her.

“Commander!” Dr. Browning cried out, firing her phaser

and felling the Klingon before he could strike.

“Gee, thanks, Dr. Browning,” Beck said. “I guess you,

um…saved my life.”

Browning smiled. “Told ya you’d like me by the end of

this mission.”

“Don’t get carried away, Browning,” Beck said, grabbing

Kelly-bell up and slamming her into a bulkhead.

“You’re too late,” Kelly-bell said serenely. “We’re

almost there. All I have to do is–”

Suddenly Ops pitched sideways as the starscape outside

the windows spun around.

“What’s happening?” Bradley asked, grabbing onto a nearby

station for support. Through the static on the viewscreen

he saw the Explorer swing around and latch on with a tractor


“It’s the Explorer!” Browning called out. “They’re

pulling us away from the Bermuda Expanse!”

“No!” Peterman shrieked, pushing Beck away. “It can’t


“Gotcha!” Baxter said victoriously. “Lana…pull us


“Playstation is still being dragged in,” Richards


“Not if I can help it,” Baxter said. “Lt.

Hartley…are the tri-cobalt devices ready yet?”

“Loaded and ready, Captain,” Hartley replied.

“Launch!” Baxter cried.

The blue twinkling balls of light lept from the

Explorer and connected with Playstation’s connecting tube,

causing the saucers to fly apart like twin frisbees.

“The Directors have left the remainder of Playstation

alone,” Hartley said. “Guess whatever they want isn’t there


“Well, it’s about time something went right around

here,” Baxter said, leaning back in his chair. “Pull us

back, Lana. Hartley, make sure none of the other Happy

ships try to make for–”

That’s when the Explorer and the ops deck it had in

tow jerked forward towards the Bermuda Expanse.

“Now WE’RE being dragged in!” Hartley cried out.

“Lana…full reverse! Break us free!” Baxter ordered.

Lana threw up her hands in frustration. “I’ve lost

all helm control, Captain!”

“Whatever the Directors want, it must be in Ops!”

Hartley cried.

Baxter sighed. “And we have Ops, so there you have


“Just perfect,” Richards muttered.

Emperor Beck struggled to stay upright at the rear of

the Buzzy’s bridge as the helmsman frantically tried to get

past the Explorer on their dizzying path toward the

Bermuda Expanse. “How much longer until our fleet can

breach the Bermuda Expanse?”

“Not much longer,” Chrissie observed. “In just a

few seconds the Bermuda Expanse should begin pulling us in,

then it’s smooth sailing from there on.”

“So you say,” Mr. Jaroch observed from his position beside


“Are you saying Counselor Kelly-bell would let us

down?” Chrissie asked angrily.

“I am merely saying that we should not count all of

our spatial anomalies before they are hatched.”

“We’ll see about that,” Emperor Beck said. “Helm, get

us inside the Bermuda Expanse, and fast. Instruct all fleet

ships to follow.”

Commander Beck struggled to regain her footing as the

Bermuda Expanse swirled before her through the nearby Ops

viewport. She had just witnessed an exact duplicate of her

station blown apart as hers had been a year ago, and she

couldn’t say she was sad to see it go.

“You all are so outclassed,” Kelly-bell said happily.

“I have the Directors on my side.”

“This is insane!” Bradley cried. “What is she trying to


Colonel Lazlo shook his head. “It’s just as we

feared. The Aerostar must have been successful in altering

the Directors and bending them to their happy little will.”

“Exactly,” Kelly-bell purred. “And we’re about to bend

‘em some more!”

“We’ll be inside the Bermuda Expanse in less than twenty

seconds!” Hartley called out.

“Say your prayers,” Richards mumbled. “They can

tear us apart with a single thought once we’re inside.”

“Well,” Baxter said with a long sigh. “Maybe Mirk

succeeded in getting through to the other Directors.”

Suddenly the hull of the Explorer began to twist and

warp noisily as it was pulled inside the Bermuda Expanse.

“Or not.”

The Explorer’s stardrive stretched out as if it were

made of rubber, and suddenly it and the ops deck it had in

tow snapped into the Bermuda Expanse.

“Captain…we’re losing hull integrity!” Richards

cried out. “We’re being pulled apart!”

“Increase power to structural integrity!” Baxter

cried. “Keep us afloat–whatever you have to do…just

don’t let us–”

And the Explorer was suddenly crushed like a beer can,

finally disappearing with a blink of multicolored light.


“Report!” Commander Conway said urgently, looking over

Dr. Lanham’s shoulder.

“Massive matter and energy dispacement taking place

within the Bermuda Expanse!” Lanham reported. “I just picked

up a familiar ID tag… Commander, it’s the Explorer!”

“Can we get a message through to it?” Conway asked.

“I don’t–David…it’s…it’s…gone.”

“Gone?” Conway asked, bewildered. “You mean…”

“It’s not there anymore. It looks like it was

destroyed, but I’m not picking up any debris. But I am

picking up something else. Multiple signals…about twenty

starships coming through!”

“Red Alert!” Captain Green called out. “Raise

shields and arm weapons. Get a message out to Admiral McGrath.

Tell them we need those reinforcements ASAP!”

“Oh, shit,” Conway said, watching shadows loom through

the clouds on the screen.

“This is just an Oberth-class vessel…” Dr. Lanham

said quietly. “Any one of those ships coming through easily

outguns us.”

“Captain, report from Waystation. The Venture and the

Darthmouth will be at our position in ten minutes,” the

tactical officer reported.

“In ten minutes we’ll be space dust,” Conway said.

“Prepare for evasive action,” Green ordered,

resting his hands on the helm officer’s chair.

“They’re coming through,” Lanham reported.

Commander Conway moved around to the front of the

bridge and watched as the ships pushed through the swirls of

clouds on the screen…and were snapped back as if they were

attached to a rubber band.

Conway wiped his forehead wearily and looked back.

“Could someone please explain that one for me?”

“Helm!” Captain T’poo shouted as the Buzzy wrenched

backwards through the clouds of the Bermuda Expanse. “Get

us under control!”

“Negatory on that one, good buddy,” the helm officer

replied. “Thrusters and guidance are off-line.”

Lt. Commander Chrissie ran his hands over the

science console madly. “I don’t get it. Counselor Kelly-

bell was supposed to have everything ready for us! The

Directors were supposed to let us through!”

“It appears you were mistaken,” Jaroch reasoned, as the

Buzzy flew backwards through the Bermuda Expanse along

with the other Funships, snapping back into their former universe

of residence.

T’poo studied the panel next to his command chair.

“Your Happyness, all of our ships are returning to their

previous positions.”

Emperor Beck cracked her knuckles. “That damned

Kelly-bell. This is her fault.”

“Emperor! Rebel ships bearing down on us fast!” Jaroch

called out.

Chrissie slammed a hand against his panel. “That

trip through the Bermuda Expanse somehow drained all our

shields. We are defenseless!”

T’poo looked up at Lisa-love expectantly. “What should we


“Well,” Lisa-love replied, “I suppose we have only

one option left. “Get us the hell out of here!”

“You heard her,” T’poo said, looking to his helmsman.

“Send to all ships: Retreat!”

Captain Baxter awoke to a feeling not unlike being on

the ancient Earth amusement known as “The Zipper.”

As soon as he stopped spinning around, he made the

risky venture of opening his eyes.

And he was greeted by a welcome sight indeed.

“Kelly…” Baxter said quietly, reaching up and

touching her face. “Is it really you? The Explorer was

destroyed. I thought I was dead…”

Peterman put a finger to Baxter’s lips. “Ssssh.

Everything’s going to be fine, lovemuffin. You’re in good

hands now.”

Baxter looked at his surroundings. “We’re in the

middle of the Bermuda Expanse!”

“Observant little feller, aren’t you?” Peterman asked,

wrinkling her nose and giving Baxter a mischievous grin.

“So, are you an inventory boy in your universe too?”

“Huh?” Baxter asked. In lieu of an answer, Peterman

reeled back and cold cocked Baxter hard across the face,

sending him spinning through the gaseous infinity.

“Simplistic moron. Try to interfere with my plans,

will you,” Counselor Kelly-bell said, rubbing her hand and

shaking out the soreness from the impact with Baxter’s face.

That done, Kelly-bell turned to see what was happening

with the Directors. The subtle empathic link that she had

with the Directors since that damned Lt. Hartley’s

interference last year told her that something was wrong.

And her fears were answered when twenty starships

blazed by, flying back towards the universe from whence they

came. What could have done that?

Before Kelly-bell could ponder the situation any

further, a hand gripped her by her hair and jerked her


“Yo, bitch!” a familiar voice said. “That’s my

boyfriend you just whacked. If anyone’s going to push him

around here it’s going to be me.”

Kelly-bell’s head was twisted around so that she could

see the face of her attacker. It was her. Her.

“Well well well. We finally meet. I knew you were

out there somewhere,” Kelly-bell said sweetly. “Tell me, are

you as powerful in your universe as I am here?”

“Let’s…find…out!” Peterman said angrily, swinging

Kelly-bell around by the arm and tossing her into another

boxing ring.

“What is this?” Kelly-bell asked, looking around the

ring. “This is called evening the score,” Peterman

said, pulling on a pair of boxing gloves. “Your Directors

and ours are duking it out. Care to wager on who’s going to


“We’ll see,” Kelly-bell said, pulling a pair of gloves

of her own on. “But right now I wouldn’t worry about that.

I’d worry about yourself.”

“Big talk, little bitch. Let’s see if you can back it

up!” Peterman cried, jabbing repeatedly at Kelly-bell as the

bell dinged the beginning of a new round.

Captain Baxter opened his eyes a second time to see

that he was still floating lazily throughout the Bermuda Expanse.

Every time he swam in the Directors’ domain he felt as if he

was trapped in the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” cartoon.

“Hi, Captain!” Dr. Browning said as she floated by in the

opposite direction. “Do you have any idea what’s going on?”

“I know Kelly knocked the hell out of me,” Baxter

said. “But I don’t think it was my Kelly. I think it was

an alternate one.”

“Confusing, ain’t it?” Browning asked.

“Sure is,” Baxter agreed.

Mirk watched patiently as the two eyeballs went at

each other. He had lost count of how many rounds had gone

by, but he knew it was a lot. Anyway, time had no real

meaning here so he could have been in there for months for

all he knew.

There had to be some way he could help. But what did

he know? He was just a little Maloxian from the other

side of the galaxy. What could he do against two grappling

deitys, anyway?

Lt. J’hana watched the eyeballs combat with

appreciation. “Interesting, is it not, Mr. Mirk?”

“I can probably think of a few words that suit better

than ‘interesting,’” Mirk said.

“Well, that happy eyeball deserves whatever it gets.

It forced me to count out marbles,” J’hana said with a


“Eat mat, bitch!” Counselor Peterman cried, shoving

Counselor Kelly-bell’s face into the floor of the boxing


“You don’t know who you’re messing with,” Kelly-bell

replied, flipping Peterman over her shoulder. “I remember

when I was like you. Someone who counseled, consoled, and

healed the mentally divergent.”

“It’s a living,” Peterman replied, bouncing herself

off the ring and slamming into Kelly-bell.

“It’s a disgrace. Counselors in your universe have no

power…no control over anything. You just sit and listen

to whiny, pedantic nonsense all day long.”

Peterman grabbed the back of Kelly-bell’s head and

yanked back on her mane of black hair. “I…help…people!”

“And…I…hate you for it!” Kelly-bell replied,

jabbing an elbow into Peterman’s stomach.

Captain Baxter swam through the cloud towards the ring

where the Directors were fighting. “Mr. Mirk…report!”

“Captain, I don’t know what to tell you. They’re two

omnipotent beings duking it our for supremacy over the

universe. It’s pretty much a stalemate at this point.”

“But one of them’s unstable,” Baxter said. “There’s

got to be an advantage there.”

“Well, the one person here who knows how to deal with

unstable personalities is busy kicking her alternate

counterpart’s ass in that ring over there,” Mirk offered.

Baxter glanced over his shoulder at the two Petermans.

“We’ve got to help her…so she can knock some sense into

that yellow eyeball and end this!”

“I wouldn’t get involved if I were you, Captain,”

J’hana said. “The alternate Counselor Peterman appears to

be a fiery sort.”

“Scared, J’hana?” Baxter asked.

“Hey, she’s your girlfriend.”

Baxter thought a moment. “You’ve got a point, J’hana.

It scares me, but you’ve got a point.”

J’hana made an odd four-fingered salute as Baxter

breast-stroked off towards the two Petermans. “May the hive

mother protect you, Captain!”

Kelly-bell bodyslammed into Peterman and grabbed her

throat, slamming her head repeatedly into the mat. “Where

is your great empathy and concern now, huh? Where’s all

that psychological training you went through getting you?

Nowhere, huh?”

Peterman dug her fingers into Kelly-bell’s face. “You

are the biggest bitch!”

“Your little threats aren’t very impressive, Couns–”

Kelly-bell said, when suddenly something slammed into her,

knocking her across the ring.

Pushing off the dazed Kelly-bell, Captain Baxter

straightened his uniform and offered Peterman a hand.

“Usually I don’t hit girls. But in this case I think I’ll

make an exception.”

Kelly-bell wiped blood from her mouth. “Think you can

outfight your girlfriend, inventory-boy? Fine! Bring it


Peterman pushed Baxter aside angrily. “Andy, this

is my fight. Why do you have to go butting in?”

Kelly-bell slammed her foot into Baxter’s face with a

roundhouse kick before he could reply.

“Stop that!” Peterman said, ramming a fist into Kelly-

bell’s face, sending her to the mat. “I’m trying to have a

discussion with my boyfriend here!”

“Listen, Kelly, usually I’d be happy to let you fight

your own battles. But right now the Directors need you to

help them defeat Mr. Smiley-face over there. Mirk’s

thinking is that you can somehow talk him out of this.”

“What about her?” Peterman said angrily, looking down

at Kelly-bell and kicking her in the stomach as she tried to

get up. “Did I tell you you could get up, bitch?”

Baxter shrugged. “I’ll take care of her.”

Peterman winked. “Just make sure you’re hitting her

and not hitting on her. She’s quite attractive.”

“But she’s no Kelly Peterman,” Baxter said, reaching

forward and kissing Peterman passionately.

“Actually…” Peterman said as Baxter pulled away.

Suddenly a hand yanked Baxter down to the mat.

“Come on, boyfriend, let’s rock!” Kelly-bell shrieked,

slamming Baxter into the mat.

“Andy!” Peterman cried.

Baxter winced as he was slammed into the mat. “I’ve

got it under control, hon, just get over there and stop that

insane eyeball, or we’re all goners!”

Peterman quickly pushed off the mat and moved off

through the clouds, hoping Baxter knew what he was getting


“Energy surges within the phenomenon are increasing,”

Dr. Lanham reported, hunched over the science console.

“They’re going off the scale. There’s some kind of massive

interchemical reaction going on in there…building up past

tolerable levels!”

“More ships coming through?” Conway asked, looking

back at Lanham.

“Negative. All the ships are gone. But there are

still a lot of sporadic lifeform readings.”

Conway leaned against the railing in front of the

viewscreen tiredly. “What in the hell is going on over


Commander Beck swam through the gaseous infinity of

the Bermuda Expanse, pushing past Klingons and scrambling

toward a familiar face. “Dr. Browning! What’s happening?”

“We’re in the Bermuda Expanse, Commander. Isn’t it


Beck looked around. “Extremely. May I ask why we’re


“I think the evil Counselor Peterman wants to join

forces with the god-like entities that control the

Bermuda Expanse and take over the universe.”

“Oh. What should we do?”

Browning watched Fresca and Singer drift by, locked in

combat with two vicious looking Klingons. Behind them,

Bradley Dillon was having a heart-to-heart with Braddie Dillon,

and it appeared that he was making progress. “I don’t know. I

think at this point all we can do is watch.”

“Great,” Beck said.

“I really wish I had brought my imager. At least then

I could be taking pictures of this. I mean, what are the

chances of this happening again?”

“Not very good,” Beck admitted.

“Oh, well, maybe that’s for the best.”

Beck nodded. “Probably.”

“I see you left the Captain to tend to your business,”

J’hana said, as Peterman moved purposefully toward the ring

where the Directors were fighting.

“I’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Peterman said, jumping

up into the ring.

“Are you going to try and beat up that eyeball again?”

J’hana asked. “You know, we tried that once.”

“No, no. I’m not going to beat up that eyeball. I’m

going to do what I should have done in the first place. I’m

going to counsel it.”

“And I thought the eyeball was nuts,” J’hana said


“Tell me, Captain,” Kelly-bell said, as Baxter rammed

her face into the post at one corner of the boxing ring.

“Is this turning you on?”

“Actually, yes,” Baxter admitted. “But, as a

Starfleet officer, you just have to work through stuff like


Kelly-bell turned around and Baxter stopped

momentarily. “Listen, Captain…Andy…we shouldn’t be

fighting like this. When my eyeball wins control of this

universe I will be endowed with powers unimagined by any

corporeal being. I will be a godess. And every godess

needs a god.”

Baxter thought about that a moment. “Really?”

“Uh-huh. So whaddaya say?”

“I’d say you’d better look elsewhere, sweetheart,”

Baxter said, tossing Kelly-bell out of the ring. “I already

have a godess.”

<Excuse me, you’re in my way,> the sane Director said

as Peterman hopped into the ring. <If you don’t mind, I’m

trying to settle this disagreement like a man!>

“That’s your problem!” Peterman said, pushing the

eyeball aside and heading toward the yellow eyeball. “Ike,

listen to me! This is no way to act!”

<Stop it, stop stop stop!> the insane eyeball replied.

<I have business to finish!>

“Whose business?” Peterman asked. “Your own? I don’t

think so. This was a plan that my counterpart came up

with…and you’re just a pawn! Now what kind of omnicient

being allows himself to be treated like a pawn?”

<Well, gee, I don’t rightly know.>

“And what do you stand to gain from making Kelly-bell a

demigoddess and letting her control the galaxy?”

<Well, she said she’d hang out with me.>

“Ike, you’re a god! You can hang out with anyone you want.

You don’t need some two-bit alterna-universe tramp to have


<You do have a point there. I don’t know, she’s got me

very confused lately. I keep getting these…mixed signals

from her.>

“That’s women for you, Ike. Listen, you’re confused.

This other eyeball is here to help you. Together you can

work through this and get help!”

<I don’t know. It’s all been so confusing since

that…that ray hit me.>

“Exactly,” Peterman said, “and who was responsible for


<Um, Counselor Kelly-bell.>

Peterman folded her arms. “I think you see what’s

happened, Ike. Now put things right before any more

innocents are hurt.”

“What are you doing, Ike?” Kelly-bell cried, leaping

into the ring. “Don’t let her lies confuse you. You have

to carry on with our plans! Merge with me!”

“Come back here!” Captain Baxter shouted, scrambling

through the swirling gas.

Kelly-bell ignored Baxter. “What are you waiting for?

Merge with me so we can kill all of these imbeciles!”

<I don’t think so,> Ike said pleasantly. You played me

like a harp from hell, Kelly-bell. And that’s not happy at


“NO!” Kelly-bell cried, leaping towards Peterman. “I’ll

kill you myself, you little tramp!”

<That simply won’t do,> Ike said serenely. Suddenly

Kelly-bell glowed bright red, as if on fire. She made a

small, shrill squeak as she vaporized, just inches before

slamming into Peterman.

<Was that too extreme?> Ike asked, turning to Peterman.

<It’s really hard to tell nowadays.>

Peterman let out a relieved breath. “No, Ike. I

think that was just about right.”

“Something is coming through!” Lanham reported.

“Ready weapons,” Green ordered. “Are Venture and

Dartmouth in place?”

“Aye, sir. They’re ready,” Conway reported, looking

up from the tactical console.

“Energy readings in the Bermuda Expanse are returning to

normal…” Lanham reported. “There seems to be nothing

stopping the ship from emerging this time.”

“Can you identify it?” Conway asked.

“Not until it emerges, Commander.”

The Pulitzer’s bridge crew held their breath as they

watched the dark shape emerge from the swirling chaos of

the Bermuda Expanse.

“I don’t believe it!” Conway said, watching the

Explorer fly out of the cloud.

“Sensor reports confirmed. It is the Explorer,”

Lanham said.

“We’re being hailed,” the tactical officer called out.

“On screen,” Green said.

Captain Baxter appeared on the viewscreen looking a

little haggard but nonetheless in good spirits. “Greetings

from the other side of the looking glass, Captain.”

“Captain Baxter,” Green said, rising. “Is everything


“Very much so. If you’ll follow us to Waystation you

can hear the whole story. I think you’ll find it has


“How corny,” Lanham said, as Baxter blinked off the

viewscreen. “How can you serve with someone who has

such a cheesy sense of humor?”

“It’s not easy, that’s for sure,” Conway said.

“Captain Green, unless you have any objections, I’d say

we should get underway.”

Green looked back at Conway with a smile on his

face. “Sure, Commander. I’d be happy to.”

Lanham made a dissatisfied grunt from beside Conway.

“Damn, it’s spreading.”

Captain’s Log,

Stardate 52606.8. I’m–er–happy to report that the

Explorer has returned from the Federation of Fun none the

worse for wear, despite the fact that it was actually

destroyed while inside the Bermuda Expanse. The Directors

were kind enough to put it back together and have assured me

that their efforts will not affect the warranty in any way

whatsoever. With that knowledge safely in hand, we have

rendez-voused with the saucer section and are preparing to

make our reports to Admiral McGrath.

“So, after taking control of the alternate Bermuda Expanse,

the sane Directors were able to repair your ship and

imprison those survivors that were still loyal to Counselor

Peterman?” Admiral McGrath said from his position at the front

of Waystation’s briefing room.

“That’s it in a nutshell, sir,” Baxter said, trying to

ignore the isolinear chips that were being thrown at him by

McGrath’s nephew Robby. He had heard that beating up an

Admiral’s nephew wasn’t taken lightly by Starfleet Command.

“What about Bradley Dillon’s counterpart?” McGrath asked.

“The one that Commander Beck here helped rescue in spite of

the Prime Directive?”

Beck smiled, ignoring the little barb from McGrath. “He

was remanded over to the custody of the rebels, who promised

to give him the best care available.”

“How touching,” McGrath said. “And the Bermuda Expanse


“Dr. Lanham, along with Tilleran and Porter, have

confirmed that the Bermuda Expanse is back to its normal

state. That is, inert again,” Conway said.

“And our universe’s Directors?” McGrath asked.

“They stayed behind to set everything right again with

the alternate Directors,” Peterman said. “After talking

with the… imbalanced…Directors I’m pretty sure that

they’re ready to take the straight and narrow path.”

McGrath took all that in and thought a moment. “So all

of you can conclude that further danger from the alternate

universe is minimal?”

“No one said that, sir,” Beck said. “Both mine and

Captain Baxter’s crews have encountered this alternate

universe before in circumstances that had nothing to do with

the Directors. It’s altogether possible that we’ll run into

them again.”

“Very well,” McGrath said. “I’m going to reccomend that

Starfleet develops a plan to deal with members of this

universe–should we have another encoutner with them. And

if no one has anything else to add, you are all dismissed.”

“Finally,” Commander Conway sighed. “I thought we’d

never get out of here.”

“Hey, chubby!” Robby called out, pulling on Baxter’s


Baxter glowered down at the little scout. “What?”

“What’s it like being the most incompetent Captain in


“Why you little–” Baxter said, smacking Robby in the

back of the head.

“Unkie Frank, Unkie Frank! The chubby Captain hit

me!” Robby cried out, rubbing his head.

“Captain, did you hit my nephew?” McGrath asked angrily.

“For goodness sake, Admiral, I’d like to think that

Starfleet officers are beyond such petty accusations,”

Baxter said. “Commander Conway, did you see me hit that


“Me? No sir,” Conway said with a smile.

“You’ll never get through Starfleet Academy if you

don’t learn to stop telling fibs!” McGrath said, grabbing Robby

by the ear and dragging him out of the briefing room.

“Thanks, Commander. I owe you one,” Baxter said, as

he, Conway, and the rest of his and Beck’s staff left the

briefing room.

“Don’t mention it,” Conway said. “He’s been bugging

me all day.”

The screaming, nails-on-chalkboard sound of Andorian

easy listening music screeched throughout Starfleet Square


“What–what do you call this one?” Lt. Hartley asked in

a loud voice, wincing as the thunderous, ear-ripping sounds

assaulted her senses.

“This one is the love theme from ‘Zanthara’s Wounds’–

a seven hour epic play in which the protagonist, Zanthra, is

slowly carved and stabbed by her mates Thrandak and



“The part of Zanthra is most sought after,” J’hana


Hartley nodded and took a sip of her Andorian bile

cider. “I can believe it.”

“Mfff–J’hana,” Dr. Browning said, looking up from her

plate and trying to speak between chews. “This stuff is


“I am glad you like it,” J’hana said. “I have found

that most humans find gabavga moste distasteful.”

“Well I’m…gmfff…not must humans,” Browning grunted.

Richards watched Browning eat with skepticism. “Uh,

J’hana, what exactly is ‘gabavga’?”

“The full bladder and intestines of a ‘gabav’,” J’hana

said proudly.

Browning stopped chewing a moment and looked up at

J’hana. “Full?”

“Quite full. No true Andorian would have their

gabavga any other way.”

The Doctor shrugged and kept on shoveling it in.

Richards covered his mouth with his napkin and

looked away. “Yuck. And I’m going to have to kiss you


“If you’re lucky,” Browning said between chomps.

Captain Baxter looked around the concourse of

Starfleet Square Mall as he waited outside “Nendegar’s


After waiting several minutes, he got up the gumption

to stick his head inside. “How much longer, hon?”

“Go go go!” the small, shriveled Yridian woman said,

pushing Baxter out the door. “Not time yet!”

“Jeeze,” Baxter said, pushing his nose up to the

window so he could see if he could get a glimpse of

Counselor Peterman stepping out of the dressing room.

“Enjoying the view, Captain?” Commander Beck asked

from behind Baxter.

Baxter flipped around, quickly trying to achieve a

relaxed stance but failing miserably. “Com–Commander

Beck. Hello. How are…how are you?”

“Actually I’m wondering why you’re peeping through the

window of a lingerie store.”

“There’s a perfectly good reason for it, Commander,

really there is!” Baxter said. “You see…I kind of…well,

Kelly wanted to–”

Suddenly Counselor Peterman emerged from the store,

twirling around in a skimpy neglige seemingly made of

nothing but yellow, blue, and pink feathers. “Hey, baby!

Check it out!” Peterman said, as she fell back into Baxter’s

arms. “What’s say you and I go back to the ship and start



Commander Beck raised an eyebrow. “Say no more,

Captain.” She looked at Peterman, stifling a laugh.

“That’s…very nice, Counselor.”

Upon seeing Beck, Peterman straightened and folded her

arms, attempting to look professional despite her outfit.

“Thanks, Commander. Uh, I’ll go change now, Andy.”

“Good idea,” Baxter said, smiling nervously at Beck.

“Heh heh. That’s my Kelly.”

“Indeed,” Beck said. “Enjoy the rest of your stay at

the station…” she brought the word up as if it burned her

throat, “sir.”

Captain Baxter watched Beck walk away and shook his

head in amazement. “She called me sir.”

“Well, that was more than a little embarassing,”

Counselor Peterman said, adjusting her uniform top and

tucking the parcel that contained her neglige under her arm.

“She called me sir,” Baxter repeated with incredulity.


“Never mind. Let’s go try out that neglige,” Baxter

said, hurrying Counselor Peterman over to the turbolift.

“Back in business, Mr. Dillon?” Beck asked, picking up

step next to Bradley Dillon as he made his way to the

turbolift that would take him up to his the posh Dillon

Enterprises offices.

“Yes, ma’am,” Bradley said proudly, watching as the

manager of “Dillon’s Supply Depot” pushed open the shudders

around his storefront and adjusted the readout beside his

door to read “OPEN.” Since the whole mess in the other

universe, Starfleet Square Mall had been shut down.

“That’s good to hear. I was worried that your little

adventure might have inspired you to move your whole

operation out to the frontier.”

“Heh-heh,” Bradley said, “well, I figured that’s what

Starfleet’s for. Besides, I think I’m better off making

money and dealing with people. Preferably people that don’t

want to kill me or turn me into a mindless vegetable.”

“So I guess you’d be averse to trying that shuttle

maneuver in a simulator on the holodeck some time?”

Bradley adjusted the collar on his suit nervously.

“Well…gee, where would the fun be in that? I mean…it

wouldn’t be real.”

“Yes, of course, you’re right. Well, you could always

take your flagship. I believe the canyons on Bontha Four

are nice this time of year. I imagine you could get a great

deal on accomodations. And you could let your Vice

President run Dillon Enterprises for a while. Oh, Bradley,

you’d have a great time.”

“You’re toying with me, aren’t you, Commander?”

“Yes, and I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Beck said

with a smile.

“Within you beats the heart of an cruel, calculating

devil-woman,” Bradley said, stepping into the turbolift.

“And don’t you forget it,” Beck said, cackling wildly

and heading off to the Andorian restaurant.

The first table she came to upon entering the

restaurant was occupied by Explorer crewmembers J’hana,

Hartley, Richards, and Browning. Putting her best diplomatic

foot forward, Beck approached the table. “Hello. I trust

you guys are enjoying yourselves?”

“Janice is,” Richards said, watching with disgust as

Browning shoveled in more Andorian cuisine.

“Yes, there is something truly inhuman about her. She

takes down zhalat ribs like no one else I know,” J’hana


“Maybe we aren’t so dissimilar after all, Dr. Browning,”

Beck said as Browning ate. “Except I like my zhalat ribs with


“Ketchup!” Browning said suddenly. “That’s what this is


“Sheesh,” Hartley said. “You’d think she’d eat the

table cloth if her plate wasn’t sitting on it.”

“Hey, in all fairness I didn’t have much time to eat

while I was in the happy universe,” Browning said defiantly as

the waiter obediently sat down a bottle of ketchup beside


“Touche,” Hartley said. “Well, as fun as this has been

I’m going back to the ship. I haven’t seen Lt. Gellar since

this whole obscene mess began, and I’m afraid I’ll miss a

minute of butt-kissing.”

“Is he still trying to make things up to you?”

Richards asked. “Lt. Hartley, that’s just horrible. When

are you going to let him off the hook?”

“When I’m darn good and ready,” Hartley said.

“Good for you, stand up for your…mff…rights!”

Browning said, as Richards fed her another rib.

“Maybe I’ll let him off the hook when I get him

trained well enough to feed me.” Hartley patted Richards

on the back and laughed her way to the turbolift.

“Hey!” Richards said. He turned to J’hana. “She

doesn’t have me trained, does she?”

“An Andorian husband in your place would be forced to

commit an ugly and disgraceful suicide,” J’hana said

solemnly as she picked at her plate. “Speaking of which, I

have had much difficulty selecting a wedding gift. Perhaps

the two of you could provide me with a list of adequate gift

items to choose from.”

Browning grabbed another rib, nibbled the meat away from

it and tossed it aside. “I’d really love some…urp…antacid.”

J’hana turned to Richards. “And for you?”

“Commander?” Baughb asked, waiting patiently for Beck

to order.

“I’ll have the fharbus, lightly toasted, with just a

little jelly, and a large v’haspant, extra cream,” Beck

said, looking up from her menu.

“Very good,” the Andorian said, taking Beck’s menu and

moving off toward the kitchen.

Beck leaned forward and rested her elbows on the

table, lazily looking around the crowded restaurant. It had

been an incredibly long couple of days. She should probably

just have her v’haspant and fharbus and head to her quarters

for a long doze. That was definitely not a bad idea, since

the Explorer crew was going to leave the station in the next

few hours, and nothing horrible had happened for quite some

time. Based on past experience, Beck knew that something

idiotic was bound to happen soon, and didn’t want to be

around when it did.

“Your v’haspant,” the Andorian waiter said, placing

the steamy cup in front of Beck.

“Thanks,” Beck said, taking a long sip from the cup

and turning her attention back to the patrons in the

restaurant and the crowd outside. One of the people

entering the restaurant caught her eye. “Hey, Craig, over

here,” Beck said, gesturing for Lt. Porter to join her.

“Good evening, Commander,” Porter said sheepishly. “I

believe you know my…friend…Lt. Tilleran. Uh, from the


“Of course,” Beck said, souring a bit. “The Betazoid.

Lieutenant Commander Morales has told me all about you.”

“All good, I hope,” Tilleran said with a smile.

“Mmm hmm,” Beck said. “So what are you kids up to?”

“We’re just here to, you know, have dinner,” Porter

said, pulling at his collar uncomfortably. “It’s a date.

Well, kind of a date. Not really a date per se. If it were a

date, I’d be picking up the tab, and I certainly–”

Tilleran glared at Porter.

”–will be picking up the tab,” Porter said, without

missing a beat.

“You’ll have to excuse him,” Tilleran said. “He’s

kind of nervous because this is his first date in…well…

let’s just say a very long time.”

It was Walker’s turn to glare. “Ariel! I thought you

promised you wouldn’t do that!”

“Oh, did I slip and accidentally read you again?”

Tilleran said innocently. “Whoops!”

“You two have fun!” Beck said, trying not to laugh at

poor Lt. Porter as he and Tilleran were seated at a corner


Commander Conway and Dr. Shar strolled into the

Andorian restaurant and looked around.

“Well, it certainly is packed tonight,” Conway said.

“We may not be able to find a table.”

“Oh, well. I wasn’t very hungry anyway,” Lana said.

“I suppose I’ll just go back to the Explorer.”

“Yes!” Conway said. “That’s a great idea! We’ll go

back to my quarters and have a nice, private–”

“Commander, over here!” Lt. Commander Richards

said. “We have two seats saved for you guys!”

“Great,” Conway muttered under his breath. “Just


After gallantly helping to seat Lana, Conway took a

place next to J’hana, collapsing into his chair with a

dissatisfied grunt.

“What’s the matter, Commander?” Richards asked.

“You look like a man with a lot of problems.”

“The Pulitzer just left. With Dr. Lanham aboard.”

“Ah, the Pulitzer,” J’hana said. “You still miss your


“Not really,” Conway said glumly. “Let’s just say I

miss mating altogether.”

“It’s overrated,” Lana said, looking down at her menu

without interest.

“Overrated?” Richards asked incredulously. “How can

you say that!”

“Easily,” Lana said, not looking up. “I have

accumulated the knowledge of eight different lifetimes.

That includes eight lifetimes’ worth of sex. I’ve had it

every possible way, in every possible position. I’ve had

men, I’ve had women. I’ve had men and women. I’ve had

gender-neutral beings. There’s really no adventure left to


The discussion was beginning to get to Conway.

“Doctor, I really don’t think you can say that there’s no

adventure left to sex. I’m sure there are lots of things

you haven’t done.”

“Oh, really?” Lana asked, amused. “Like what?”

“Well, like…” Conway leaned over and whispered

something into her ear.

“You bastard!” Lana cried, slapping Conway across the

face and pushing him out of his chair.

“What’d I say?” Conway asked, struggling to get back

into his chair.

Lana scooted back out of her chair and threw her

napkin in Conway’s face. “That would injure the symbiont

and leave me paralyzed from the waist down!”

“And?” Conway asked.

Infuriated, Lana walked over to Beck’s table and

grabbed her steamy mug of v’haspant.

“Oh, no, not again!” Conway cried, backing away


“Hope you like it hot and wet, Commander!” Lana said

angrily, dumping the v’haspant onto Conway’s crotch.

“Dr. Nelson to the Andorian restaurant, ASAP. And

bring your burn kit, Doctor,” Beck said with amusement,

rising from her chair.

“That is a waste of good v’haspant,” J’hana said


Beck bent down and examined Conway as he writhed on

the deck. “I don’t know. I think it went to a pretty good


With that, Beck and everyone at the table laughed out


Except for Dr. Browning, who tossed yet another chewed

zhalat rib over her shoulder.

As if it had a tracking device, the rib soared through

the air, finding its mark in Commander Beck’s open mouth.

The Commander staggered back, gasping for air. “Urk!”

“Uh-oh,” Richards said, as Beck’s oxygen-starved

expression turned to one of anger. “So much for being on

Commander Beck’s good side.”

“Why? What happ-“ Browning asked, when suddenly she

was yanked out of her chair by her hair and tossed into the

mishtak pit.

“Mishtak has begun again!” Baughb said excitedly as

Browning and Beck writhed in the pit. “Twice in one week!

We must be doing something right!”




“Well, Major?” Captain Bennie Sisko asked, stepping

down from his office and taking up a position next to Major

Kiki Nerys. “Which way is the wind blowing?”

“Reports confirmed, Cap’n Bennie,” Kiki reported.

“Most of the Federation Funforces have been obliterated.

The rest of the fleet has retreated into Klingon space.”

“What a turn,” Bennie said with a grunt. “Anything

from Earth?”

“No, sir. It appears, at least for now, that the

rebels are in control.”

“That’s no good,” Bennie said. “I guess it’s time for

us to throw in the towel, Kiki. It won’t be long before

those rebel ships come after us, and I for one don’t want to

be around when they get here.”

“Aye, sir,” Kiki said. “Lt. Commander Daxie, Chief

O’Bri-bri, begin shutting down and ready the runabouts for

immediate departure.”

Lights began shutting down all around Ops, and all

around Neat Place Nine. The steady hum of the main reactor

slowly dissipated until it was silent.

Moments later, Captain Bennie emerged from his office

with a packed suitcase. “Well then, no time for sappy good-

byes; let’s go.”

Bennie, O’Bri-bri, Kiki, and Daxie were almost to the

turbolift when a tiny light began to blink at Daxie’s


“For old time’s sake, Bennie?” Daxie asked sweetly.

Bennie shrugged. “I suppose so.”

Daxie hit a button on her terminal, which activated

the main viewscreen.

On the screen, the wormhole blossomed open.

“Daxie, how is this possible?” Kiki asked. “I thought

the Federation of Fun sealed off that wormhole four years


“Tell that to the wormhole,” O’Bri-bri said, pointing at

the viewscreen.

Bennie watched as a mass of little grey and purple

bug-shaped ships emerged from the wormhole. “I wonder

who they are.”

“They have pretty ships,” Daxie remarked.

“They certainly do. Maybe they can help us rebuild

the empire!” Kiki said.

“Bri-bri,” Bennie said. “Do we still have the

industrial-level happyness generators on board?”

“We packed them away after we made the whole

population of Bajor happy, but I figure we can unpack ‘em.”

“Good,” Bennie said excitedly. “I want you to do just

that. Then power all those systems back up and open a

channel to the lead ship. I do believe we’re back in


Tags: vexed