Star Traks, Waystation, and an excellent bread machine 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

Captain’s Personal Log,

Stardate 52367.5. While the Explorer continues its charting duty of sector 41085, Counselor Peterman and I, along with Dr. Browning and Lt. Commander Richards, have taken the opportunity to take a little break from the rigors of deep space.

Captain Baxter tiptoed into the cockpit of the runabout Algonquin, making sure not to awaken Ensign Ford, who was seated in the pilot’s chair, snoring loudly, head back, mouth open, with just a little drool running down his chin.

“RED ALERT!” Baxter screamed, kicking the back of Ford’s chair roughly.

Ford awoke with a start, running his fingers furiously along the runabout’s control panel. “Raising shields, arming weapons, preparing for evasive maneuvers!”

Baxter leaned forward and pressed a control, turning off the Red Alert siren and returning the lighting in the cockpit to normal. “At ease, Ensign. Did you have a nice nap?”

Ford smiled weakly. “Sorry, sir.”

The Captain peered out the front viewport. “How much longer until we reach Havar Three?”

Quickly doing the calculations, Ford answered. “Less than an hour, sir.”

“Good,” Baxter said. “Right on schedule. Any word from the Explorer?”

“Commander Conway checked in an hour ago. He wanted to remind us to pick up some Havarian sugarcane for him,” Ford said.

“Let me guess, for his coffee,” Baxter said, rolling his eyes.

“Yes, sir. He says no other cane in the galaxy is as sweet. You get the sugar rush and the caffeine high at the same time.”

Baxter shook his head. “The man makes compulsive substance abuse a science.”

“That he does, Captain,” Ford said, returning to his work.

“Is something wrong, Ensign?” Baxter asked, noticing the absence of Ford’s normal quips.

Ford turned in his chair. “Yes, sir. Permission to speak freely?”

Baxter sat down. “Gee, you’ve never asked me that. I’m not sure how to respond.”

“Just say ‘granted.’”

“Okay, granted,” Baxter said, crossing his legs.

“Captain, I’ve served under you for over a year now, right?”

“Right,” Baxter replied. “What’s your point?”

“Well, I’m the only member of your senior staff below Lieutenant Junior Grade. You even promoted Fresca, who was actually below me.”

“Well, technically, she was a Lt. Commander the whole time, but I still don’t see your point,” Baxter replied.

“My point is, I want a promotion. I served as an ensign on the Secondprize for over two and a half years, on the Aerostar for a year, and on the Explorer for almost six months. That’s-“

“A lot of math,” Baxter interrupted.

“-four years,” Ford finished. “Four years as an ensign. Don’t you think I’m almost due for a promotion?”

Baxter leaned back in his chair and put his feet on the console in front of him. “Mr. Ford, promotion is a long, tedious process. It takes a very long time and a lot of hard work.”

“Sir, you were promoted from lieutenant to captain in one day,” Ford noted.

Baxter smiled, standing up. “There are always exceptions, Ensign. Listen, keep getting us out of tight situations like you have in the past, stop the name calling, the propositioning of female crewmembers, and maybe this Christmas…well, you never know.”

“That’s right, I’ll never know,” Ford sighed, as Baxter headed back to the aft compartment.

“Well?” Counselor Peterman asked, looking up from her book. “How much longer?”

“A little less than an hour,” Baxter said, taking a seat next to Peterman on the bunk. “What do you guys think about Ensign Ford?”

“Slimeball,” Lt. Commander Richards said, not looking up from the painting he was working on.

“And a half,” Browning added, half asleep on the bunk across from Peterman and Baxter.

“Why do you ask?” Peterman asked.

“Well, he’s a little ticked that he hasn’t been promoted

yet,” Baxter said. “He seems to think he deserves it.”

“Well, he is a hard-working slimeball,” Peterman agreed. “But whenever Commander Conway and I come to his name in the personnel review, it’s always attached to a sexual harassment charge, or a malicious destruction of Starfleet property charge, or a willful subordination charge, or a lascivious usage of a replic–”

“Okay, I get it,” Baxter said, putting a finger to Peterman’s mouth. “He’s a troublemaker. But he’s also a damn good pilot.”

“Bottom line: it’s your decision, Captain,” Richards said.

Baxter slid off the bunk and ordered a grapefruit juice out of the replicator. “I did not schedule this trip to talk about business. I’ll worry about Ford’s rank when we get back to the Explorer. For now, is anyone up to a good old fashioned game of video football? I’ve got dibs on the Cowboys!”

“Please,” Peterman said. “I’d rather have a Vulcan condor peck my eyes out.”

Baxter frowned. “A simple ‘no’ would have sufficed.”

“I’d play with you, Andy, but I’m still sleeping off those triple shifts I did when we had to evacuate that Leseppian freighter,” Dr. Browning said, her eyes still closed.

“Party poopers,” Baxter said, sitting down next to Richards at the table in the center of the room.

“What do you think?” the engineer said, turning his picture around for Baxter to look at.

“What the hell is it?” Baxter asked, squinting at the smudges on the canvas.

“It’s the Explorer,” Richards said indignantly.

“Oh,” Baxter said. “You know, Commander, it strikes me that you used to be a hell of a lot better artist.”

“Gee, I’m glad you like it,” Richards muttered, turning the picture back around.

“No, I’m serious,” Baxter said. “When you were assigned to the Aerostar, your previous Captain characterized you as being a better artist than engineer. Now you’re a damn good engineer who can’t draw a lick.”

“I have gotten a lot better at engineering,” Richards mused.

“All that extra data has to be stored somewhere,” Browning said drowsily.

“Yep,” Peterman agreed. “It’s a well-known fact that the human brain can only hold so much information. Your improved engineering abilities just replaced your artistic abilities.”

“Great,” Richards frowned. “I can stop a warp core breach but I can’t even draw a freaking starship.”

“I for one wouldn’t have it any other way, Chris,” Baxter said, patting Richards on the back.

Commander Conway stepped out onto the bridge of the Explorer, took a deep breath, and smiled broadly. “Boy, it’s a wonderful afternoon.”

“What makes it so wonderful?” J’hana asked moodily.

“Can’t you feel it?” Conway asked, walking around to the command chair and setting his cup of coffee down in the cup holder. “It’s like the place has taken on an air of calmness and control since Baxter and Peterman left.”

“Perhaps, from your point of view, you are correct, Commander,” Larkin said from ops. “But the effect is not a measurable one.”

“The hell it’s not,” Conway said. “Just because your sensors can’t detect it doesn’t mean it’s not there. The fact of the matter is, this ship runs a lot smoother without those two around.”

Before Conway had finished saying that, the turbolift doors wooshed open, allowing Mirk to step out onto the bridge.

“What can I do for you Mirk?” Conway asked cheerfully as the bartender stepped to the front of the bridge.

Mirk glared at J’hana menacingly. “The security staff had another party last night.”

“Aw, and I wasn’t invited?” Conway said, feigning sadness. “How terrible.”

“Terrible is right. They trashed my bar. Again,” Mirk fumed. “I can’t keep letting them come in there if all they’re going to do is wreck the place.”

Conway looked back at J’hana. “Is this true, Lieutenant?”

“If you cannot take the heat, get out of the bar,” J’hana said. “My people work hard. When they are off duty, they play hard.”

“Elli has a fractured chestplate, J’hana!” Mirk shouted. “He’ll be in sickbay for a week!”

“It was a minor injury. I barely hit him,” J’hana huffed.

“And Lt. Henson was reported to be touching Amara in a very…familiar way,” Mirk said, still glaring at J’hana.

“Who the hell is Amara?” Conway asked.

“A Bajoran waitress we picked up at the last Federation outpost,” Mirk said. “And a darn good worker. Mr. Henson gave her a tip she wasn’t counting on.”

“She is lucky to be getting the attention,” J’hana remarked. “You are just jealous anyway, Mirk.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Mirk asked, circling around to the tactical station.

“It is a well-known fact that you’ve had intentions towards Amara ever since she came aboard,” J’hana replied.

“That’s none of your business!” Mirk said.

“Hey,” Conway interrupted. “Why don’t you guys just–”

“I made it my business, you little twirp. Do you want to do something about it?” J’hana said, walking out from behind her panel.

Mirk pushed up his sleeves. “Darn right I’m going to do something about it, you blue bitch. I’ve got a ton of butt whuppin here–how many pounds can you handle?”

“More than you can dish out, weakling!” J’hana cried, lunging towards Mirk.

Mirk simply closed his eyes, concentrating on J’hana until a purple glow began to form in front of him.

“Mirk…” Conway said, standing up and approaching the bartender.

Before J’hana could reach the Lobstraxian, she hit the purple glow and flew back against the wall, sliding down to the deck.

“Why you little…” J’hana said, getting right back up and lunging again, only to be thrown backwards again, this time smashing a panel as she flew up against it.

“KNOCK IT OFF!” Conway shouted.

J’hana and Mirk looked over at Conway as if they had just realized he was there.

“What’s his problem?” Mirk asked.

“Knowing him, you can never tell,” J’hana grunted, picking herself up.

“That’s enough, both of you,” Conway said, looking back to Larkin. “Commander, take these two to the brig. And have someone get up here to fix this panel.”

“Aye, Commander,” Larkin said, rising from her station.

“Commander, you cannot just remove me from the bridge–” J’hana protested.

“I just did,” Conway said, straightening his uniform and sitting back down in the command chair.

“This way, please,” Larkin said, gesturing for J’hana and Mirk to follow her to the turbolift.

“Man, what a jerk,” Mirk said.

“Tell me about it,” agreed J’hana as the two followed Larkin into the turbolift.

“What were you saying about calmness and control, Commander?” Tilleran asked with a grin.

“As you were, Lieutenant!” Conway barked.

Unlike Baxter, Conway was not one to have his authority challenged. He’d have this crew whipped into shape by the time Baxter and his little friends returned, that was certain.

“Sure you don’t want to come with?” Baxter asked, just before ducking out of the Algonquin’s hatch.

“Positive,” Ford said. “I have a lot of other stuff I need to catch up on here. Anyway, someone should watch the runabout.”

“That’s why we have insurance,” Baxter said. “Come on. It’ll be fun!”

“I don’t think so, sir. Anyway, the phrase ‘Klingon comedian’ sounds like an oxymoron.”

“Galactic Review gave him a Warp Seven,” Baxter protested. “They called Kajkek ‘witty, irreverent, and uproarious.’”

“Do you even know what uproarious means, sir?” Ford asked.

“Well, no, not really. Do you?”

“Not a clue.”

“Well, it sounds important,” Baxter said. “I’m sure he’s a great comedian.”

Ford shut down the Algonquin’s engines and put the ship on docking mode. “That may be, but I’ve got an officer advancement test to study for.”

“You’re kidding,” Baxter said. “You’re actually planning on taking that?”

“I’m planning on passing it,” Ford said defiantly.

“Okeydoke,” Baxter said, stepping out of the hatch. “If you change your mind, you know where we’ll be.”

“Uh-huh. Buh-bye,” Ford said, waving as the hatch closed.

“Are you ready?” Peterman, said, lugging two of her massive suitcases out of the Algonquin’s cargo compartment. “We’ll be late for check-in at the hotel.”

“I still don’t know why we have to spend extra latinum on a hotel suite. We’ve got a perfectly good runabout to sleep in,” Baxter said, leading the way out of the docking depot.

“Those bunks hurt my back!” Peterman said. “They’re soooo uncomfortable. And you know how important it is that I stay as flexible as possible!”

“That’s true,” Baxter said. “Maybe we should just skip the comedian altogether and try out the hotel room?”

“Here we go again,” Browning sighed, rolling her eyes.

“You’d think they were the ones that were engaged,” Richards commented.

Baxter put his arm around Peterman’s shoulder and glared over at Richards, drawing a finger across his throat. “Ix- nay on the enagement-gay!” he whispered. Peterman had been increasingly aggressive about the whole “marriage” thing ever since Browning and Richards had gotten engaged, and, frankly, it was scaring the hell out of Baxter.

“Hey, don’t knock it till you try it!” Richards hissed back.

“What are you two conspiring about?” Browning asked, looking back at Richards and Baxter.

“Oh, we were just saying how great it is to be with the two most beautiful girls in the galaxy,” Baxter said, smiling sheepishly.

“You weren’t getting advice on ring-buying, were you baby?” Peterman asked, smiling back at Baxter.

“R-r-r-r-ring?” Baxter stammered.

“He sounds like a freaking bell,” Browning laughed.

“Hey, did you remember my sunglasses?” Baxter asked, trying to change the subject.

Peterman opened up the case she had slung over her shoulder. “Right here, sweetie pie.”

“Whew,” Baxter said, wiping a hand across his forehead. “That’s a relief.”

Baxter quickly put the sunglasses on as the group stepped out into the bright Havarian sunlight. It was a few degrees hotter than Earth summer on this world, and Baxter immediately regretted not going with shorts.

“It sure is hot here,” Peterman said, as the group proceeded down the bustling Havarian street.

“Don’t worry, I hear it’s cold as heck at night,” Richards remarked.

“Great, the best of both worlds,” Browning said wryly.

“Does anyone remember where our hotel is supposed to be?” Baxter asked.

“Um,” Peterman said, rifling through her bag. “I put the padd in here somewhere.”

“I can’t even remember what the hotel is called,” Browning said.

“It’s good to know that Starfleet prepares us so well for deep space duty that we can’t even remember what hotel we have reservations with,” Richards groaned.

“Here it is,” Peterman said, pulling the padd out of her suitcase. “The hotel is called the Havarian Arms.”

“That’s because Havarians have multiple arms, isn’t it?” Browning quipped.

“Stop joking and start looking,” Baxter ordered. “We have a one o’clock reservation, and it’s almost that right now. We don’t want to lose the reservations.”

“I’m sure it’s impossible to find a hotel suite in the middle of the day,” Richards said, squinting in the sunlight at the buildings as the group strolled down the sidewalk.

“Hey guys!” Peterman pointed up at the gargantuan building that loomed over the group.

Baxter turned to Peterman in exasperation. “What, honey?”

“The hotel’s right here!”

“So it is,” Richards said, amused.

“Let’s get checked in, already,” Baxter said. “I’ve got a lot of, um…unpacking to do.”

Peterman smiled, biting her lip playfully. “Well, you’re just going to pack it back in somewhere, aren’t you?”

“Well,” Baxter said, “if I can find a place to put it.”

“I’ve got a place!” Peterman said, putting her arms around the Captain and kissing him ravenously.

“Hey, guys, get a room,” Browning said.

Baxter heaved Peterman into his arms and strolled into the revolving doors of the hotel. “That’s exactly what I’m planning on doing. Would you guys mind checking us in, too?”

“Not at all,” Browning said, grabbing the padd from Peterman, who was still helpless in Baxter’s grip.

“Baxter, party of four,” Browning said, handing the padd to the clerk at the main desk.

The clerk, evidently a Havarian, wrinkled her brow in confusion, twitching her whiskers ever so slightly.

“I’m sorry, your party has been moved to a smaller suite. We have a convention in town, and we’ve had to bump some people.”

“Bump?” Baxter asked, while he was waiting by the elevator with Peterman.

“We had to give you guys a two-bed one-room suite instead of a two-bed two-room suite, that’s all,” the clerk said.

“I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. We’ve included a complementary fruit basket at no extra charge for the trouble.”

“But–” Baxter said.

“Very sorry. Enjoy your stay at the Havarian Arms,” the woman said, cutting Baxter off in mid sentence.

“Ooh, a fruit basket!” Browning said, thumbing a signature on the padd and handing it to the woman in exchange for a card key.

“Think of it this way,” Richards said, “it’s still better than sleeping aboard the Algonquin.

As they approached the elevator, Browning looked at Baxter. He was rubbing noses playfully with Peterman, making soft cooing noises.

“But they’re above us on the Algonquin, Christopher,” said Browning. “Now they’ll be right across from us.”

Uh-oh. She called me Christopher. She’s ticked, Richards thought. Think fast. “Hey, I picked out the colors for our wedding invitations. How about…um, eggshell and sky blue?”

Browning smiled. “Chris, I’m surprised. That sounds wonderful.”

“Oh, look, an empty elevator!” Baxter said, as the elevator doors opened.

Peterman pushed Baxter into the elevator and jumped in, yanking at his shirt.

“We’ll just take the next car,” Richards said mumbled.

“‘The amplitude of the quantum displacement field is directly proportional to the gravitronic matrix,’” Ensign Ford said, staring dumbly at the terminal in the rear compartment of the Algonquin. “Gee, that makes sense.” The subspace physics section of the officer advancement test was probably going to be the hardest. Everything else was just diplomacy, reflex, decision-making and proper hair composition. That he could do. But when it came to memorization, he had always just

written down the answers on his hand.

Ford continued to page through the subspace theory database, idly wishing that he could do something…anything else.

Suddenly Ford’s studying was interrupted by a strange tapping sound.

“What the–?” Ford said, looking up. A face was looking in the viewport across from him. A pair of wild, happy eyes looked in at him.

The knocking continued.

“Go away, I don’t want any,” Ford barked.

Irritated, Ford resumed his study.

Suddenly the Ensign felt a tapping on his shoulder.

Ford jumped out of his seat, grabbing a phaser off the rack near his table.

“How the hell did you get in here?” he asked, pointing his phaser at the cloaked figure that stood behind his chair.

“When you refused to talk to me, I was forced to transport into your vehicle,” the man explained placidly, his eyes still wild and happy. He looked to Ford as if he was on some sort of drug.

“Well, that’s wonderful, now transport back before I pop a phaser beam into you,” Ford replied.

“Can’t you at least hear me out?” the man asked.

“I said I don’t want any.”

“My brother, I have nothing to sell you. What I have to give you, however, will change your life.”

“That so.” Ford said, lowering his phaser. “What’s that?”

“Peace. Change. Freedom. Purpose.” The man said. “Can you honestly tell me you’re not lacking those?”

“Well…” Ford admitted, scratching his head. “I don’t know.”

“Then give me fifteen minutes of your time, Ensign, and I’ll show you the way of the Starshine Kids.”

“The Starshine Kids?” Ford mused. “Sounds like a music group.”

“We are certainly not a musical group. What we are is a brotherhood of beings dedicated to clarity of purpose and purity of life. Please, might I just take a moment to explain our charter?”

Ford took a seat and putting his phaser down on the table. “Okay, you’ve got fifteen minutes. ‘Enlighten’ me.”

The cloaked man removed his hood, revealing the fact that not only was he bald, but Vulcan, too.

“I am Sesil, and I have found the true way of happiness. Let me expose you to the cleansing starlight.”

“You’re not selling fiber supplements are you?” Ford asked.

“Not at all.” Sesil replied. “I’m talking about a different type of cleansing.”

“Do tell…” Ford said, leaning forward with interest.

“We’re going to be late!” Richards cried, pounding on the bathroom door. Baxter and Peterman had been in the shower for over forty minutes. “When are you guys going to get out of there?”

“Just a minute!” Baxter shouted. “We’re still washing some…things.”

“Ugh.” Richards plopped back down on the bed.

Dr. Browning put on her other earring, turning around for Richards’s inspection. “What do you think, sweetheart?”

Richards pulled Browning closer. “You’re dazzling, my little Brownie.”

Browning leaned forward. “Tell me more about those invitations…”

Richards pulled Browning down onto the bed with him. “Well, I was thinking of doing the font in a kind of calligraphy, with really ornate letters. And a border, maybe Corinthian.”

“Keep going!” Browning said excitedly.

Baxter and Peterman emerged from the bathroom. “I still don’t understand what a cummerbund is for.” The only dress uniform Baxter ever had to wear was his Starfleet dress uniform. He’d never had to wear a tux, much less the old fashioned kind Peterman had forced him to replicate.

“It goes around your waist, silly.” Peterman smiled, nudging up against Baxter.

“Can we go already?” Richards asked. “We were supposed to leave fifteen minutes ago!”

“Loosen up,” Baxter replied. “Just because you and Janice have settled into a nice, boring little routine doesn’t mean Kelly

and I have to do the same.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Browning asked. “We’re plenty spontaneous.”

“Forget he said anything. He tends to be a little dense after, well, you know…” Peterman smiled.

“Dense?” Baxter asked, annoyed. “I beg your pardon?”

“Come on, Andy!” Richards urged. “It was your big idea to see this Kajkek fello, remember?”

“Oh, yeah. Right. Well, let’s go then!”

Half an hour later, Baxter, Peterman, Browning, and Richards tiptoed quietly into the darkened auditorium. The Klingon comedian had evidently already begun his act.

“Where are your tickets?” A Havarian man asked angrily from at the back of the room, drumming his four sets of fingers on his podium. Browning was apparently right about the arm thing.

“Uh-“ Baxter said, rifling through his jacket pockets. “I had them here somewhere.”

“I’ve got them,” Peterman sighed, reaching into her purse. “Here you go, sir.”

“You are late,” the man said, grabbing the tickets hastily. “Please try to find a place as quietly as you can.”

“Sure, sure.” Baxter lead the group in between the clumps of tables in front of the stage.

“Excuse me, pardon me…” Peterman said, smiling nervously as she weaved in between the tables behind Baxter. “Awful sorry…excuse us.”

“So anyway, I told the p’tak that he had no honor.” The Klingon comedian continued. “And he said, ‘Please, Kajkek, don’t hurt me.’ And I said ‘Come on, you know what we Klingons do to Federation officers caught behind enemy lines, don’t you?’ Well, needless to say he didn’t have an answer for th-“ The Klingon stopped, looking down at Baxter and his group as they pushed towards the front of the room.

“Just find a spot, Andy!” Richards said fearfully.

“I want to be up front!” Baxter demanded.

“Excuse me,” Kajkek grunted, looking down at Baxter. The spotlight fell upon Baxter, bathing him in white light.

The Captain held up a hand to block the light from his eyes. “Oh, hello there. We’re just, um, trying to find a place to sit.”

“Well, find one and be quick about it. You are late.” Kajkek growled.

“Awfully sorry,” Browning said. “We had a lot of unpacking to do.”

“And packing.” Peterman added.

“I don’t want care what you had to do,” the Klingon said. “Find a place…now!”

“Y-yes, sir,” Richards said, pointing to an empty table. “How

about that, Andy?”

“I guess,” Baxter said. “But I was hoping to be closer.”

“Picky, picky!” said Browning.

“Silence!” Kajkek shouted. “As I was saying, the Federation officer did not have an answer for me, so I ripped out his stinking Federation throat! He did not even have time to scream!”

With that, the audience erupted into laughter.

“I don’t get it,” Baxter said aloud. “Was that supposed to be funny?”

Peterman kneed Baxter under the table. “Shhh…he’s going to hear you.”

“So what? We’re paying customers. If he’s going to be so obnoxious to us, I think we have just as much of a right to-“

“I told you to be quiet!” Kajkek shouted, leaning down towards Baxter’s table. “Or I will make you quiet.”

Peterman slapped a hand over Baxter’s mouth. “He’s awful sorry, Mr. Kajkek. Really, he is. Just go on with your little act. You’re very funny.”

“Be thankful your woman held you back, human,” Kajkek spat. “Or I would have had to make you eat that cummerbund of yours.”

“He knows what a cummerbund is?” Baxter said quietly to himself.

“His woman?” Peterman said angrily. “I am nobody’s ‘woman!’”

“Whatever.” Kajkek said, turning back to the audience. “Did anyone ever notice how Terrans talk to much? They constantly babble nonsense day in, day out. Maybe they have to talk to survive!”

The audience laughed once again.

“That’s not true,” Baxter said quietly. “That’s not true!” He said a little louder.

“Don’t tell me the little Terran’s making more noise,” Kajkek said, turning back to Baxter. “Are you still whining, little man?”

“Turn in the other direction, you big oaf, I can smell your breath from here!” Baxter shouted, to the delight of the audience.

“Arrrggh!” Kajkek shouted, leaping off the stage and crashing on top of Baxter’s table. “I shall feed you your spleen, human!”

“I think we’d better go,” Richards suggested, as Kajkek jumped back up and lunged at Baxter.

“Excellent idea, Commander!” Baxter cried, side-stepping out of Kajkek’s way.

“Commander?” Kajkek asked, picking himself up. “You four are in Starfleet, aren’t you?”

“We might be…” Browning said weakly.

“I hate Starfleet!” Kajkek screamed. “You’re all dead!”

“You have no respect for women!” Peterman shouted, jumping on top of Kajkek’s back. “You should be more sensitive!”

“Get off me, you insufferable female!” Kajkek shouted, spinning

around in an attempt to dislodge Peterman.

“Show him who’s boss, baby!” Baxter cried, as Peterman laid

into Kajkek with her fists.

Twenty minutes later, Baxter, Peterman, Browning, and Richards

were politely and discreetly shoved out the front doors of the Havar

Plaza Garden Auditorium.

“What did I tell you, Andy!” Peterman said, wiping herself off and

glaring back at the security guards as they went back into the auditorium.

“‘It’s not safe to go to a show on a Klingon territory world. They hate the

Federation there.’ But no, you wouldn’t listen.”

“I thought this place would be nice,” Baxter said quietly. “And it was

close. And relatively cheap.”

“We almost got killed!” Richards shouted.

“But we didn’t,” returned Baxter.

“I think the audience liked us,” Browning remarked. “They really clapped when we got thrown out.”

“I think it was because we were being thrown out, Janice,” Richards said.

“You think?”

“Well, we can never show our faces there again.” Baxter stepped out into the street to hail an aircab.

“What a pity,” Peterman said, trying to salvage her completely mussed hair.

“Well, I think you guys have stewed down here long enough,” Commander Conway said, looking from Mirk’s cell to J’hana’s.

J’hana stepped up to the force field barrier, baring her teeth menacingly. “If you drop that field, Commander, you’d better run like hell.”

“Now, you wouldn’t assault a superior officer, would you, Lieutenant?” Conway asked. “That would be another demerit.”

“Demerit?” J’hana asked. “Since when have we had demerits?”

“Since now.” Conway smiled. “And you both have five.”

“Oh, darn,” Mirk deadpanned. “Now my permanent record will be forever scarred. So much for getting that command I’ve always wanted.”

“Laugh all you want,” Conway said. “But, mark my words, things will be different around here while Captain Baxter is gone.”

“I am shaking in my boots, Commander.” J’hana sneered.

“Let’s start with your punishments,” Conway said.

“I thought the demerits where our punishment,” said Mirk.

Conway smiled. “Oh, that’s only the beginning. For J’hana’s indiscretions, she will be responsible for all repairs to Mirk’s bar.”

Mirk smiled triumphantly. “I knew justice would be served.”

“And as your punishment, Mirk, you will be subjected to Ensign Saral’s six week disciplinary refresher class.”

“Her what?” J’hana asked.

“Disciplinary refresher. Something Saral came up with. She’s a bright girl, with an excellent idea of how a Starship should be run. She’ll go far around here. Especially if we find the need to replace our security chief.”

“You’re bluffing,” huffed J’hana.

“Try me,” Conway said. “You report to classroom seven at oh-five-hundred tomorrow morning, Mr. Mirk. And don’t be late or you’ll get-“

“Another demerit?” Mirk asked.

“You’re catching on.” Conway smiled. “Let them go, Lieutenant Gellar.”

“Just wait till I get out of here, Conway! You won’t know when or how, but I’ll make sure you don’t have a solid bone in your body!” J’hana shouted, as Gellar released the security field.

“Careful,” Conway taunted, “or you’ll become Ensign J’hana again before you know it!”

“Arrgggh!” J’hana shouted, as Mirk and Conway left the room.

J’hana whipped her head around to glare at Lieutenant Gellar, who was trying desperately not to laugh.

“I can feel your look, Gellar.” J’hana grunted. “And I can rip it off your face just as easily!”

Conway stuck his head back into the brig. “Ah-ah-ah! Play nice, Lieutenant!”

“Arrrrgggghh!” J’hana shouted again. She never thought it would happen, but she was actually looking forward to Baxter getting back.

“Goodnight, Andy,” Peterman said, kissing Baxter gently on the cheek.

“Goodnight, Kelly,” Baxter replied, nestling Peterman closer to him. “Goodnight, Chris,” Baxter added, glancing over his shoulder at Richards.

“I can’t believe the hotel staff took our other bed and put it in someone else’s room,” Richards said, trying to make some space between him and Browning and Baxter and Peterman on the bed.

“Just suck it up, Christopher,” Browning said. “Soon it will be morning and we can head back to the Explorer.”

“That won’t be soon enough for me,” Richards fumed. “This trip has sucked bigtime.”

“Come on, it hasn’t been that bad,” Baxter said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Peterman giggled. “I honestly don’t know how, Andy.”

Suddenly the door to the hotel room exploded open.

“What the hell?” Baxter asked, shooting up in bed. A large group of shadows moved quickly into the room. Before he could do anything, he was hit in the face by the butt of a disruptor rifle.

Peterman jumped into the attacker’s face, shrieking and clawing.

Baxter heard someone barking commands in Klingon just before losing consciousness.

J’hana bent down and scrubbed the puke stains out of Mirk’s carpet, cursing Commander Conway and cursing the disinfectant fluid she was using for not having the same pleasant smelling dirt and grime fighting agent found in most household cleaners.

“Having fun?” a voice asked from behind her.

J’hana looked over her shoulder. Lt. Hartley was leaning up against the doorway to Explorations. “What do you want?”

“I thought you could use some help.”

“Good. Get a mop and a bucket from the broom closet,” J’hana grunted.

Hartley stepped into the bar, allowing the doors to close. “That’s not what I was talking about.”

“Then what were you talking about?”

Hartley picked up an upturned chair and sat down. “I’m talking about Commander Conway. Next to the Captain, I’m the best at torturing him.”

“Is that so?” J’hana asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Remember the golden retriever puppies on the holodeck?” Hartley asked.

“Yes, that was a truly great feat.”

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for an encore performance.” Hartley smiled.

“Go on.”

“Wake up, filthy human swine!” Kajkek shouted, kicking Baxter awake.

The Captain tried to move, but soon realized he was tied down.

“Am I funny now, Terran?” Kajkek asked, leaning into Baxter’s face and barely piercing one of his nostrils with a daktagh blade.

“Well, not-not really,” Baxter said shakily, glancing over to Richards. “How about you, Chris, are you laughing?”

“Yeah, ha ha, I’m, ha ha, laughing my butt off,” Richards said nervously, peering down the barrel of the disruptor that one of Kajkek’s companions was pointing at him.

“Don’t hurt us!” Counselor Peterman shrieked from beside Baxter. “We’re Federation citizens.”

“That’s precisely why I am going to hurt you, woman!” Kajkek shouted.

“Att-may!” Baxter whispered. “Ee-say if-ay oo-yay an- kay et-gay e-they ommunicator-kay!”

“Get the what?” Richards whispered back.

“The ommunicator-kay!” Baxter whispered, his teeth clenched.

“Enough!” Kajkek shouted, hitting Baxter again upside the head with his disruptor.

“Oh, the communicator!” Richards said. “How silly of me.”

“Communicator?” Kajkek laughed, reaching into Peterman’s suitcase. “You mean this thing?” The massive Klingon squeezed the tiny device, crushing it to pieces with his bare hands.

“Oh, just great,” Browning said. “Now that giant starship in orbit won’t be able to beam us up.”

“Giant starship?” Kajkek asked, scratching his head with the blade.

“Rush him, Chris!” Baxter cried, straining against his bonds.

Richards did the same, but neither of them managed to get free.

“Don’t try to escape,” Kajkek said with a laugh. “We have you tied down quite well. I tied the ropes myself–a double slip knot.”

“This is not a double slip knot,” Baxter said indignantly. “It’s a square knot. Any third year Starfleet Scout would know that.”

“What are you saying, Terran? Are you saying I am no smarter than one of your young boys?”

“You said it, not me!”

“Kill him, Kajkek!” one of the Klingons said. “Rip his heart out!”

Kajkek seemed to calm down a little. “All in good time, Ramja. All in good time. First we will have a little fun with the Federation filth. Tell us, Mr. Captain. Why do you sleep with three of your officers?”

“Old Starfleet custom?” Baxter said meekly.

“And what of this giant starship?” Kajkek demanded. “What class is it?”

“Galaxy,” Baxter said. “More than a match for any Klingon cruiser.”

“You think so?” Kajkek said, leaning forward, teeth clenched.

“Oh, I know so,” Baxter said. “After all, how threatening can a Klingon who can’t tie knots be?”

“Andy, stop it, you’re only making him madder!” Dr. Browning cautioned.

“Shh!” Baxter commanded. “I know what I’m doing.”

“Okay, you think you’re so smart, Mr. Smarty Knot-tying Federation man, why don’t you show me how to tie a knot!” Kajkek cried, pulling Baxter’s bonds apart and handing him the rope.

“Well, first of all,” Baxter said, folding the rope in half. “You have to choke your assailant to death!”

The Captain lept across the bed and onto Kajkek’s back, wrapping the rope around the Klingon’s neck.

“Pray you kill me, human, because if you don’t, your death will be extremely painful!” Kajkek cried as Baxter tried to reign him in.

Kajkek’s associates stood by and watched as Baxter fought the lumbering Klingon, aware that if they interfered, they would be insulting his honor.

Baxter squirmed around on the Klingon’s back, pulling back tighter and tighter on the rope.

“See if you can get his knife!” Richards shouted, as Baxter and Kajkek fought.

“I’m kind of busy at the moment, Chris!” Baxter cried, as Kajkek slammed him into the wall.

The impact jarred Kajkek’s blade loose, causing it to fly through the air.

“I’ve got it!” Richards cried, squirming to catch it with his hand. Unfortunately, his aim was a little off, and the blade landed, point first, on Richards’s hand.

“Arrgggh!” Richards cried, as the blade plunged into his hand. “It hit the bone! It hit the bone!”

“I’ve got it, Christopher! Just hold on!” Browning whispered, wriggling the knife free with her hand.

“Happy place happy place happy place!” Richards cried, trying not to notice the blood shooting out of the hole in his hand.

Browning maneuvered the knife with her free fingers, until she was able to carve away at the bonds enough to break free.

“Stop, human!” one of Kajkek’s men shouted, rushing towards Browning with his disruptor.

Browning grabbed the disruptor and jerked the Klingon forward, using his own momentum to toss him over the bed.

“Wow,” Richards said, as the Klingon landed on top of him. “You constantly amaze me, honey.”

“Janice, some help over here!” Baxter cried, as Kajkek continued to bash him into the wall.

“Hold on, Andy!” Browning cried, firing the disruptor at two oncoming Klingons and reaching into her purse.

“Watch your back!” Peterman shouted.

Browning spun around, just in time to see another Klingon attacking. She quickly ducked between his legs and shot the disruptor up into his crotch, causing the Klingon to make a sound Browning had never heard before.


“Find the other communicator!” Peterman shouted.

“Quick!” Baxter shouted.

Browning quickly rifled through her purse. “I’m looking! I haven’t cleaned this thing out in months. Oh, look, my picture of me and Christopher at Goodtimes Village! Lipstick…hairbrush… compact…wait, here it is!” Browning shouted, lifting up the communicator just as another Klingon dove towards her.

The Doctor rolled backwards, allowing the Klingon to slam into the wall, simultaneously pressing down on the comm badge.

“Browning to Algonquin. Four for emergency transport!”

With that, Baxter, Peterman, Browning, and Richards were gone.

“Damn them, we can’t let them get away!” Kajkek shouted, whipping out his own communicator. “Braka, Chuy Choo!”

And the Klingons disappeared, along with any hopes of Baxter and his friends ever getting their safety deposit on the room back.

Captain Baxter and Lt. Commander Richards jumped into the pilot seats of the runabout as soon as they materialized.

Browning and Peterman took the two seats in the rear of the cockpit. “I’m putting out a priority distress call to the Explorer and to the Havarian authorities.” Peterman said.

“The Havarians won’t help us.” Baxter said, starting up the Algonquin’s engines. “This is still a Klingon holding.”

“Hey, where’s Ensign Ford?” Richards asked, as he began the preflight check.

“Baxter to Ford. We need you in the cockpit immediately.” Baxter touched the control on his console.

“Ford here. I can’t help you at the moment, Captain. I’m meditating.”

“What the hell?” exclaimed Richards.

“We don’t have time to fool around,” Baxter said. “Hold on everyone.”

Baxter steered the runabout out of the parking garage, weaving around the corners and through interconnecting tunnels.

“Federation ship. This is Havar air control. We have orders to retain you for inspection. Please cut your engines and allow us to beam aboard.”

“Darn, the Klingons must have connections with the Havar authorities,” said Browning.

“They’re not getting us without a fight,” said Baxter. “Charge

weapons, Chris.”

“Phasers ready,” replied Richards.

“They’re lowering a blockade in front of the exit,” Browning noted on her console.

Baxter watched through the forward viewport as a yellow-and- black striped barricade began to drop in front of them. “Going to full thrusters.”

The Algonquin smashed through the barricade, climbing upwards through the bright Havarian sky.

“There’s a Klingon Bird of Prey in orbit, Andy,” said Peterman. “B’rel class.”

“One of the small ones, right?” asked Browning.

“They’re still more than a match for us,” Richards noted.

“What about that distress call?” Baxter said, looking back to Browning.

“I can’t tell if it’s getting out. I think they’re jamming us.” Browning reported.

“Damn. Can we outrun them?”

“I’m not sure. I’d have to dump everything into the warp engines,” Richards said. “These things were only designed to go around warp four.”

“We can’t outrun them, we can’t outgun them. So we’ll have to outmaneuver them,” Baxter said, looking up as the Havar clouds gave way to the black of space.

“Bird of Prey to port,” Peterman said. “They’re locking disruptors onto us.”

“You know what I hate about humans?” Kajkek’s voice said over the runabout’s comm system. “The way they run away, like cowards.”

“Dear Lord,” exclaimed Browning. “He’s going into his routine!”

Baxter cringed.

“And did you ever notice how humans have a really whiny way of talking? Kind of like they know they’re dishonorable, but just don’t want to admit it? I hate that, don’t you?”

“Your mother’s a targ, Kajkek, and not a pretty one!” Baxter cried, once he’d felt he’d heard enough. He hit the warp engines. “Hold tight everyone!”

There was a muffled sound of cursing on the comm system,followed by an unhappy sound from Peterman’s terminal.

“They’re pursuing us. Firing disruptors!” Peterman cried.

“Going to evasive,” said Baxter.

“Did you really have to call his mother a targ?” Browning asked, as the runabout lurched from a disruptor blast.

“Lesson One in Klingon diplomacy, when you’ve made them a little mad, it’s best to go ahead and make them madder,” Baxter said. “Richards, return fire.”

“I sure wish this thing was equipped with torpedoes.”

The Algonquin shook again with another disruptor blast.

“They took out our engines, Andy!” Richards shouted. “We’re coming out of warp.”

“Suggestions, anyone?” Baxter called out, steering the runabout hard to port in order to evade the Bird of Prey.

Ensign Ford stumbled into the cockpit. “What the hell is going on out here? And why are you guys all in your pajamas?”

“So good of you to join us, Ensign,” Baxter said, glancing back. “We’re just having a little slumber party. Don’t mind us.” Baxter looked back at the tactical screen, then glanced back again at Ford. He was completely bald.

“What the hell happened to your hair, Ensign?”

“I have been enlightened, Captain,” Ford said proudly, as another blast shook the Algonquin.

“Enlightened?” Peterman asked, inspecting Ford’s head.

“Yes, ma’am. While you guys were gone, a member of the Starshine Kids showed me the cleansing brightness of Universal Starlight,” replied Ford.

“Ensign Ford,” Baxter said sternly. “Did you join a cult while we were gone?”

“It’s not a cult, sir,” Ford said indignantly. “It’s…well …it’s a social organization.”

“I don’t believe this. I leave you alone for less than a day and you join a cult. Didn’t I bring you up any better than that?”

“Andy, our shields are almost down!” Peterman cried.

“We’ll talk about this later, Mr. Ford.” Baxter said. “For now, have a seat.”

“Who’s attacking us?” Ford asked.

“The Klingons,” Browning replied. “Captain Baxter once again demonstrated his great diplomatic skills.”

“Don’t blame this on me, Janice!” Baxter shouted. “He was being a jerk!”

“Well, you could have been a little more mature about it,” Peterman said.

“And you didn’t have to call his mother a targ,” Richards added.

“Stop blaming me!” Baxter cried. “I feel like I’m being picked to death by the beaks of a thousand little blame birds!”

While Baxter, Browning, Richards, and Peterman fought, Ensign Ford calmly walked up to the communications console and typed in a few commands.

“Captain!” Browning suddenly said. “There’s a ripple in the subspace barrier forming ahead at bearing oh oh four mark one eight five.”

Baxter watched through the viewport as space seemed to ripple and tear, and suddenly, a massive, angular, gleaming, multi- nacelled red ship emerged from the ripple.

“What the holy hell is that?” Baxter demanded.

“Brothers and sisters, lay down your arms in the face of the Holy Children of Starlight,” a calm voice said over the comm channel. In the background, an annoying commercial-like jingle played over and over again:

We are the Starshine Kids

the Starshine Kids

the Starshine Kids

We love you and everyone,

So face the light

and face the sun!

“Lower the weapons, Mister Richards,” Ford said calmly from behind Richards and Baxter.

“Are you crazy?” Richards asked.

“Do it,” Baxter said. “Let’s see what happens.”

“Stay out of this, p’tak, this matter does not concern you!” Kajkek shouted angrily over the comm.

“Your aura is quite disturbing, sir. I must request that you open your eyes to the starlight and stop this aggressive behavior,” the voice from the other ship replied.

“I’ll give you aggressive behavior, sHolpeQ!” screamed Kajkek.

Everyone gathered around the runabout’s viewport, watching in wonder as the Bird of Prey fired a volley of disruptors at the red ship. “Captain…they have no shields!” Browning said. “They’ll be destroyed.”

Before Baxter could reply, the disruptor blasts hit the red vessel’s hull, and were harmlessly absorbed.

“Uh-oh,” Kajkek’s voice said quietly.

“You are hiding in the shadows of darkness, and must be exposed to the cleansing of the light,” the voice said, still calm.

“This won’t be pretty,” Ford warned.

A white beam lanced out from the red vessel, instantly destroying the Bird of Prey.

“Holy sh**,” Baxter said, his mouth agape in astonishment.

“We will be watching you, Mister Ford, and you may trust that we will be in touch. Good day, Captain Baxter,” the voice said pleasantly, and with that, the mysterious red ship disappeared.

Baxter slowly turned back to Ford. “What the living hell was that all about?”

“You have witnessed the glory of the Galactic Light,” Ford said serenely, turning and heading back to the aft compartment.

“Oh, well, that explains everything,” Peterman muttered.

“Get us out of here, Richards,” Baxter said, rising from his chair. “And contact the Explorer. I’m about ready to end this little vacation.”

Personal Log, Lieutenant J’hana,

Stardate 52368.3. Thanks to the engineering skills of Lieutenant Hartley, Mirk’s replicator access, and my knowledge of security protocols, we have developed a plan that will finally show Commander Conway who’s boss.

“Where’s J’hana?” Conway asked, stepping out of the ready room and out onto the bridge.

Larkin turned back from her panel. “Unknown, sir. Her shift began five minutes ago.”

“Another demerit,” Conway said, hitting a button on his padd.

Conway sat down in the command chair, eager to begin looking at the morning’s comm traffic reports.

“Hartley to Commander Larkin,” rang the comm system.

“Go ahead,” Larkin said, looking up from her panel.

“Could you come down here and help me for a minute? We’re having trouble realigning the phase transition coils.”

“Certainly, Lieutenant,” Larkin said, rising from her station. “I shall only be a moment, Commander.”

“Go ahead, Larkin. Things are pretty quiet around here.” Conway looked back down at his padd.

Lt. Tilleran watched Conway skeptically. Any minute now he’d be going to the replicator for his morning cup of coffee. His routine was extremely predictable.

The Betazoid hit a few buttons on her panel. “Sir, it looks like there’s a fluctuation on the port sensor array. I’d better go down and take a look.”

“Fine, fine.” Conway didn’t look up. “Go ahead.”

Ensign Madera shifted uncomfortably in her seat at the helm. Any minute now.

“Thirsty, Ensign?” Conway asked pleasantly, rising and heading towards the replicator.

“N-no, sir,” Madera replied. “But, you know, I really have to go to the bathroom.”

“Dismissed, but make it snappy, Ensign. I can’t man the bridge all by myself,” Conway said cheerily.

Madera left her station and darted for the turbolift.

Conway looked back. “You know, you can use the bathroom in the conference lou-“ But it was too late, she was already gone.

It was then that Conway realized that the entire bridge was empty. Something weird was going on, and he was damned if he was going to be left in the dark about it.

As soon as he got his morning cup of coffee, he was going to go find J’hana. Most likely, she was plotting some kind of revenge for him making her clean up Mirk’s. Conway expected that; he knew he’d have to watch his back around J’hana for a while, until she cooled down a little bit. That was fine with him. Sometimes, as a starship commander, you have to tick people off. That’s just part of the job.

Commander Conway smiled at himself for thinking up such an ingenious demerit system. It may take the crew a while to take him seriously, but they eventually WOULD take him seriously.

“Computer: the usual, extra large, black, double sweet,” Conway stated, waiting expectantly at the replicator for his coffee.

A blue swirl of energy appeared in the replicator slot as the coffee generated.

“Computer, what’s taking so long?” Conway asked, leaning forward and peering at the blue swirl.

“Please stand by,” the computer replied pleasantly.

Conway frowned at the replicator. Why didn’t anything on this ship ever work right? “Damn repl-“

Before Conway could finish his sentence, a flood of scalding hot coffee gushed out of the replicator, knocking Conway off his feet.

“Computer, deactivate replicator!” Conway cried, slipping on coffee as it continued to shoot out.

“Unable to comply.”

The coffee was now knee-deep, and still scalding hot.

Conway cursed, running for the turbolift, as the coffee scorched his feet.

Unfortunately, instead of opening, the turbolift doors stayed closed, and Conway smacked right into them, flying backward to the deck with a slosh of hot java.

Conway lay, submerged in hot scalding coffee, his screams producing bubbles through the liquid.


Later that morning, Lieutenant Commander Larkin waited patiently outside the severely scorched runabout Algonquin as its hatch creaked open, allowing Baxter and his other officers to disembark.

“We came as soon as we received your distress call,” Larkin said. “I understand all of you had quite an interesting experience.”

“You could say that,” Baxter replied. “Where’s Commander Conway?”

“In sickbay, sir. It seems there was a terrible malfunction with the replicator. It filled the bridge with scalding coffee and almost drowned him.”

“Huh. Didn’t something like that happen to Captain Rydell once,

back on the Secondprize?”

Baxter could swear that Larkin was suppressing a smile. “Mere

coincidence, sir, I am sure.”

The group exited the shuttlebay, as groups of engineering

technicians began to work on the Algonquin.

“Anything else interesting happen while we were gone?” Baxter


“Not that I am aware of, although there was quite a party in Mirk’s the night before last, as I understand.”

“Uh-huh. Well, I’m glad the ship is still in one piece.”

“More than I can say for us.” Peterman frowned from behind Baxter.

“Ensign Ford, may I say that is quite an interesting new hairstyle,” Larkin commented, looking back at Ford.

“I am now one with the Universal Starlight,” said Ford.


When Captain Baxter stepped onto the bridge that afternoon, he immediately noticed the distinct smell of coffee.

“Thank God we have stainmaster carpet,” Baxter commented, taking a seat in the command chair.

“Yes, sir,” said Larkin. “However, even with the stainmaster carpet, it will take at least a day to have the bridge shampooed and cleaned.”

“What a mess.” Baxter sighed. “So do we know what caused the accident?”

“The official cause is listed in my report as equipment failure, sir.”

“Really? What a shame. Ms. Madera, get us back on course.”

“Aye, sir.”

Ensign Ford stepped onto the bridge, wearing a baseball cap.

“Ensign, I didn’t think your shift started for another hour,” Baxter said, looking back.

“I wanted to talk to you, sir.” Ford replied. “Alone, if you don’t mind.”

“Um, okay. Commander Larkin, you have the conn.”

“What’s on your mind, Ford?” Baxter asked, standing several feet away from the replicator before taking his grapefruit juice out. Everything seemed to be working okay once again.

“Sir, I wanted to apologize…for joining the cult. I realize that it’s not exactly the ‘Starfleet’ thing to do.”

Baxter motioned for Ford to sit down as he took a seat at his desk. “Well, I don’t recall anything in the regulations that says you can’t join a cult. Anyway, the way I see it, those, Galactic Sunshine people-“

“Universal Starlight.”

“Excuse me, Universal Starlight people–saved our butts.” Baxter said. “But I sure as hell would like to know where they got a ship like that, and how the hell they can appear and disappear without a cloaking device, and how they can withstand a disruptor barrage without shields or ablative armor.”

“Yes, sir,” Ford agreed.

“I don’t like to interfere in the outside lives of my crew, Ensign Ford, but, I would like you to remember that those people destroyed a Bird of Prey in one shot.”

“And they shaved me, sir,” Ford said.

“Well, there is that. Who knows? Maybe the ‘Picard’ look will get you somewhere.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it, sir.”

“And let’s just hope that cult doesn’t come looking for their membership dues.”

“If they do, I’d suggest we give it to them, sir.”

Baxter laughed. “Me too. In the meantime, I’m going to talk to Commander Conway about that promotion, once he gets out of sickbay.”

“You mean it, Captain?”

“Let’s just say I’ve seen the light, Ensign.”

“Brekkian scotch, Mirk,” J’hana said, taking a seat at the bar.

Mirk slid the glass over to J’hana. “I have to admit, the place looks great, Lieutenant.”

“Thank you. My people worked very hard,” J’hana replied, taking a sip of her scotch. “And I talked to Ensign Saral. I convinced her to drop you from her discipline class, for…medical reasons.”

“I’m surprised you got a Vulcan to do something so unscrupulous.”

“Well, Conway made a mistake picking Saral to work against me. Vulcans have no desires for advancement. However, they do see a certain logic in staying on the good side of their immediate superiors.” J’hana smiled. “I think we’ve seen the last of the ‘demerit’ system, and Conway’s little control games.”

“I’ll drink to that.” Mirk smiled.

“You guys seem happy,” Lt. Hartley said, taking a seat at the bar.

“Thanks to you, Lieutenant. I hear Commander Conway is still in recovery,” J’hana replied.

“Hey, what can I say? I’m good. But we couldn’t have done it without Larkin. She had the idea in the first place.”

“Surprises me that she would do such a thing,” Mirk said. “She always struck me as the neutral type.”

“Larkin knows where her loyalties lie,” J’hana said. “She may be an android, but she’s not stupid.”

“If you say so, Lieutenant,” Mirk said. “What can I get for you,


“I don’t know. I’m not in the mood for synthohol tonight,” Hartley

said thoughtfully.

“How about some hot chocolate, Lieutenant?” Commander Larkin asked, on her way out the door of the lounge.

Hartley eyed Larkin strangely, looking back to Mirk. “Yeah. That sounds good. Punch it up, Mirk.”

Commander Conway picked up step next to Lieutenant Commander Larkin as she left Mirk’s lounge. “Well, Commander?”

“The score is even now, sir,” Larkin said.

Conway slapped his comm badge with a satisfying smile, as screams and shouts ensued from the lounge. “Conway to engineering. Cleanup crew to Mirk’s. And by all means, take your time.”

“Shouldn’t you be getting back to Sickbay, sir?” Larkin asked.

“In a minute,” Conway said, running over to the doors to Mirk’s. “First I want to enjoy this.”

Conway peered into Mirk’s as the hot chocolate level rose past the door windows. Suddenly, an angry-looking blue face pushed up against the glass.

Lt. J’hana’s scream could be heard through the two-inch thick door and all the gallons of hot chocolate.



It’s an old-fashioned Family Feud as J’hana encounters her brother Lular, the Andorian Revolutionary. Can she stop an Andorian civil war? Can she stop this story from being a campy rehash of Redemtion and Unification? Let’s hope so, for my sake!

Tags: vexed