Star Traks, Waystation, and the Ben Folds Five CD belongs 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

“…We’re Starfleet officers. Weird is part of the job.”

–Anonymous Captain

Captain’s Log,

Stardate 52792.4. We’ve been sent to evaluate a colony at the edge of the Galactic Rim, a place we’d just as soon keep far away from. In my experience, every wave of expansion in history has been accompanied by an equal wave of death and destruction. Ah, well, you can’t make a Federation omelette without breaking some deep space eggs.

“That was truly profound, Captain,” Commander Conway said sarcastically as Baxter closed the log.

“I don’t remember asking for your opinion,” Baxter said defiantly.

J’hana let out a grunt from tactical. “I believe the Captain is right. For us to thrive and expand as a civilization, others must give way. It is the law of natural selection.”

“But what if they don’t want to give way?” Tilleran asked.

“Then we will make them.”

“Pretty strong words, J’hana,” Conway said. “Suppose they’re more powerful than we are.”

“Than we will die.”

“Leave it to J’hana to lighten the mood,” Baxter sighed, as the doors to the bridge wooshed open.

“Come on, baby!” Peterman said excitedly, leading Charlie out onto the bridge.

“What’s that mutt doing here?” Conway asked angrily. “I thought we agreed he was banned from the bridge after chewing all the stuffing out of my chair!”

“Everyone deserves another chance,” Peterman said, leading Charlie over to her chair and taking a seat. “Isn’t that right, honeypie?”

Baxter looked at Peterman then back at Conway. “She sweet talked me.”

“I bet she did,” Conway grumbled. “Well, if he comes near my chair again I’m vaporizing him.”

“Not if I can do it first,” J’hana muttered.

“If you’d all just let Charlie love you, you’d see he’s not so bad,” Peterman said, waving a rubber bone in front of Charlie’s nose. “Right, boy?”

“Arf!” Charlie said happily, grabbing for the bone.

“Aww, isn’t that cute,” J’hana deadpanned. “It almost makes me want to disembowel that stinking hound right now.”

“He loves you too, J’hana.” Peterman let Charlie have the rubber bone and leaned back. For his part, Charlie ran off with the bone and began gnawing away happily.

Conway watched Charlie skeptically as he gnawed on the bone. As if he could detect Conway’s gaze, Charlie looked up. “Rrrooo?”

“No, no…” Conway said. “Stay away.”

Charlie immediately jumped to his feet, walking over to Conway and laying the slobber-covered bone in his lap.

“Look, Commander, he wants you to have his bone.”

“Someone get this thing out of my lap!” Conway griped. “It’s covered in slobber!”

“You wouldn’t have it any other way, Commander,” Baxter said with a smile. “Just save us the trouble of prying it out of you and admit it. You love that dog.”

“I’d love this dog if he was stuffed and mounted above my desk,” Conway muttered.

“We’re entering system Phi Beta, Captain,” Lt. Ford announced from the helm.

“It’s about time,” Baxter said, looking back to J’hana. “Try and raise the Geraldo Colony, J’hana.”

“Aye, sir,” J’hana said, pressing a control on her panel.

“Why would someone name a colony Geraldo, anyway?” Peterman asked. “It doesn’t sound like a very dignified name for a colony.”

“Maybe it’s named after the person who founded it,” Baxter said. “Are you telling me you’d object to a Kelly Colony?”


“Sir, we are not getting a response,” J’hana said. “All I can seem to pick up is a high level of subspace static.”

Baxter’s smile disappeared. “Lt. Tilleran…”

“Scanning…” Tilleran said, looking down at her panel. “I’m not picking up any EM activity on the planet.”

“None?” Conway asked, turning around.

“No, sir. It’s as if everything just shut off.”

“Sir!” J’hana suddenly said. “I am detecting a large vessel in orbit of Phi Beta Two.”

“I’m not liking the sounds of this,” Baxter said eerily.

“We are now in visual range,” J’hana reported.

“On screen,” Baxter ordered, rising out of his chair.

Phi Beta Two blinked onto the screen, at first looking completely normal. Upon closer inspection, however, Baxter could see a large, dark grey blob floating above the planet, emanating a thick, purple beam.

“What the hell is that?” Baxter asked.

“Magnifying and enhancing image,” Larkin reported.

The image zoomed in, revealing the gray blob to be a large, bone-shaped vessel.

“The Dawg,” Tilleran said fearfully.

“Red Alert!” Baxter called out. “Raise shields!”

“The colony’s f***ed, we’re f***ed, the Federation is f***ed,” Conway said, falling back in his chair.

“Save the f***ing for later,” Baxter said, turning to Tilleran. “Can you tell what they’re doing to the planet?”

“Yes, sir,” Tilleran said. “Evidently they were able to neutralize the colony’s main power relay system then rip the technology off the surface with a tractor beam.”

“We have to stop them,” Peterman said worriedly.

“I don’t know that we can,” Baxter said. “Does this vessel match the specifications of the last Dawg vessel we encountered?”

“Affirmative,” Larkin reported. “And as such, it heavily outguns us.”

“Then we are f***ed,” Conway said. “We should get while the getting’s good.”

“If we do, that colony’s as good as gone,” Baxter said. “J’hana, send a priority one message to Starfleet. We have engaged the Dawg.”

“And request major backup!” Conway added.

“Yeah, that too,” Baxter said.

“Message sent,” J’hana reported.

“Mr. Ford, lay in a course to intercept the Dawg vessel, full impulse. J’hana, arm all weapons and target the Dawg’s tractor emitter.”


“Larkin, I want you to modulate the weapons frequency to a setting high enough on the EM band that they may not be prepared for it.”

“Ready, sir.”

“FIRE!” Baxter called out.

Phasers and quantum torpedoes ripped out of the Explorer as it headed toward the Dawg ship, cutting into the vessel’s underside.

Suddenly the bottom of the ship exploded and the purple beam dissapeared.

“We did it!” Peterman said excitedly.

“Don’t celebrate yet,” Baxter said, watching as the vessel turned slowly on the screen.

“They are coming toward us now,” Larkin announced.

“Perfect,” Conway muttered. “We saved the colony and now they’re after us.”

“That was the plan, Commander,” Baxter said. “Mr. Ford, get us the hell out of here, maximum warp.”

“Course laid in, speed set, tail between our legs,” Ford reported.


The Explorer stretched out into warp and lept into subspace, the Dawg vessel close behind.

“They’re right on top of us!” Tilleran reported.

“Can they use that tractor at warp?” Baxter asked.

“Unknown,” Larkin replied. “The Borg could not.”

“Well, we’re about to see if they can,” Baxter said. “Baxter to Engineering. Richards, can you get any more speed out of these engines?”

“I’m working on it, sir. The best I can give you right now is Nine point nine seven. Give me a few minutes and I may be able to squeeze out Nine point nine eight.”

“Hurry, Commander.”

“They are still gaining,” J’hana said. “They will be within tractor range in forty-five seconds.”

“If they pull us out of warp…” Conway said.

“I know,” Baxter replied. “We’d be ripe for the picking.”

“Richards to Baxter. We’re now at Nine point nine eight nine, but I don’t know how long that’ll hold out.”

“Dawg vessel has matched speeds,” Larkin said. “And they have increased to Warp Nine point nine nine to intercept.”

“They saw us and raised us,” Conway said wryly.

“Let’s just hope they can’t beat our pair of two’s,” Baxter muttered.

“Power levels on the Dawg vessel are rising,” Tilleran reported.

“Hopefully we took out their only tractor beam,” Peterman said.

“Arf!” Charlie said, dropping his rubber bone at Baxter’s feet.

“Not now,” Baxter said. “We’re playing with bigger dogs right now.”

“They’re locking on a tractor beam!” Tilleran called out.

Baxter punched the all-call button. “All hands, prepare to be jostled about in a very uncaring manner!”

Suddenly a purple beam lanced out of the Dawg vessel and grabbed at the Explorer, ripping it backwards out of warp.

The bridge crew flew forward as the inertial dampers tried madly to compensate for the change in speed and direction.

“Full…reverse…Ford!” Baxter grunted as he was pressed against the viewscreen. “Try to use our…momemtum…to…break the…tractor beam!”

“Aye, sir!” Ford called out, gripping onto his panel.

The Explorer jerked towards the Dawg vessel and kept going backward, pulling the vessel along with it.

“The Dawg vessel is attempting to pull us in,” Larkin reported.

“Shearing force is incredible!” J’hana called out.

“Keep pulling on that beam!” Baxter ordered.

“Captain, we can’t keep this up. Either they’ll rip us apart or we’ll rip them apart, and at this point in the game I’m betting on them!” Conway cried.

“Cut the engines and aim us just above the tractor emitter, Mr. Ford,” Baxter ordered. “J’hana, lock on the quantums and fire a rapid spread at the emitter as soon as we’re over it.”

Baxter gripped onto his chair as the Explorer shot over the top of the Dawg vessel and spread quantum torpedoes down over it.

“We took out their other tractor,” Tilleran reported.

“Well, running is obviously not going to work,” Baxter said. “Come around for another pass and try to take out their main weapons cluster.”

“I don’t think they have a main weapons cluster,” Tilleran said.

“Then lock onto a bunch of them!” Baxter said frantically.

“Another tractor beam is locking onto us!” Larkin reported.

“How many damned tractor beams can they have!” Baxter exclaimed.

Suddenly the Explorer shuddered, as a wave of purple energy surged around the bridge, blowing out monitors and panels everywhere.

“What the hell was that?” Conway asked.

“They sent out a high-powered interferometric pulse along their tractor beam,” Tilleran said.

“Shields are down!” J’hana called out.

“Engineering to bridge! We just lost the impulse and the warp drive. What the hell did they do to us?”

“Beautiful,” Baxter said. “So long, everybody.”

Baxter and the others sat quietly on the darkened bridge and waited to be finished off by the Dawg’s cutting beam.

“Huh,” Conway said, after a few moments. “What’s taking them so long?”

“I don’t know, but it’s making me very uncomfortable,” Baxter replied.

“Maybe they don’t want to destroy us,” Peterman suggested.

“If not, odds are they just want to do something worse to us,” J’hana said.

“Like what?” Baxter asked.

As if to answer Baxter’s question, purple beams coalesced around the bridge.

“J’hana to all decks, Intruder Alert!” J’hana called out, reaching underneath her station and pulling out a phaser.

“What the hell are they?” Baxter asked.

“They’re cute and fluffy!” Peterman exclaimed.

The intruders were all dogs more or less, though some seemed more humanlike than others. Three of them were upright and the other three were on all fours, growling and snarling as they advanced on the bridge crew. All of them seemed to have cybernetic eye implants, cyborg paws, legs, and tails, and all of them looked vicious.

Seeing the other canines, Charlie bolted toward them and began batting at them with his paws and barking.

“Aww, he wants to play with them,” Peterman said.

“Snap out of it, Counselor!” Baxter said, grabbing a phaser from under his chair and firing at the cyborg dogs.

“Don’t shoot them!” Peterman cried, moving into the midst of Charlie and the other dogs.

Conway pushed past Baxter, phaser at the ready. “I’ve got ‘em, sir!”

“Hold your fire!” Baxter barked. “You might hit Kelly!”


Suddenly a large, burly sheepdog rammed into Conway, causing him to fall forward onto its back.

“I wuv you, I wuvvvuvvvuvv you!” Peterman said lovingly, rubbing the head of a bionic little chiuahuah.

“Kelly, get away from that thing!” Baxter said, shooing away a cyborg chowchow and batting away a black lab. “These guys are dangerous, cybernetically enhanced creatures that want to take over the ship!”

“But they’re soooooo fluffy!”

Larkin was busy grappling with a vicious doberman pincher as Peterman rubbed and cooed and stroked. It seemed as if she had actually immobilized one of them, a fluffy Alaskan malamute by stroking his tummy.

“Wook how cute he is, yessums, yessums!” Peterman said lovingly.

“They are overpowering us!” J’hana said tiredly as she chased after the sheepdog that had Conway in tow.

And just as suddenly as they had come, the whole kit and kaboodle dematerialized in a flash of purple.

“Well, that takes care of–” Baxter looked around. “Kelly?”

J’hana stood up and wiped herself off. Evidently she had been about to leap on the sheepdog when it disappeared. “Captain, they have taken Commander Conway as well.”

“Damn,” Baxter muttered, following J’hana up to tactical. “Can we find out what those things are doing?”

J’hana examined her panel. “Uncertain. It would appear that they have transported over in mass quantities.”

“Then it’s settled,” Tilleran said woefully. “They’re taking over the ship.”

“Not without a fight,” Baxter said angrily. “J’hana, break out the phaser rifles. Tilleran, see if you can find out where Peterman and Conway went.”

“On it, Captain.”

“We have to work quickly,” Baxter said. “Who knows what chaos those damned animals are wreaking on the rest of the ship.”

“Okay everyone, stay behind me,” Lt. Gellar said, motioning to the security officers behind him. “It might get pretty ugly in there.”

Gellar stood back, upped the setting on his phaser and pressed the door control, stepping carefully into the Constellation Cafe.

“Mirk, is everything okay in here?” Gellar asked, peering inside.

“We have everything in control,” Mirk said, pointing to the rear of the lounge.

Near the windows, six or seven Dawgs were held inside a giant cage, barking and growling to be set free.

Dr. Browning was perched atop the cage, dangling a piece of steak down inside. “Hungry boys? Come on, I know you want some!”

“When they beamed in here I used my powers to create that cage around them. They look pretty snug,” Mirk said proudly. “And they will be for the next several minutes before that cage fades out of existence.”

“Then I suggeest we get out of here,” Gellar said, looking over at Dr. Browning. “I have a feeling that caging them up has made them even madder.”

“I bet a milk bone would calm these guys right down,” Browning said.

“I for one don’t want to find out.”

Mirk walked out from behind the bar. “Do you have any word from the other decks?”

“Communications channels are intermittent,” Gellar said. “From what we can tell, they’re tapping into our power sources and adapting our environment to suit their needs. The crew’s fighting back, but it doesn’t look good.”

“That is correct,” Ensign Saral said. “The science department estimates that the crew compliment of a Dawg vessel may be as great as twenty thousand.”

“That’s a heck of a litter,” Browning said, sliding off the cage and tossing her piece of steak in. “Have you heard anything from engineering?”

“No. We’ve lost complete contact with that section,” Gellar said. “Sorry, Doctor.”

“Well, unless you guys have something better to do, I suggest we investigate.”

“We?” Gellar said. “I don’t think so. You’re a doctor. You’re not supposed to go into battle.”

“I beg to differ,” Browning said. “My fiancee’s down there.”

“I’ve got the phaser rifles, Mirk!” Amara said, emerging from the storeroom and tossing one of he rifles to Dr. Browning.

Browning grabbed the rifle, checked the setting and flipped its top-mounted flashlight on. “Coming, Lieutenant?”

“Well, yeah, I guess so,” Gellar said, following Browning.

“Be good, boys,” Mirk said, looking back at the cage full of Dawgs and following Amara, Browning, and the security officers out of the lounge and sealing the door behind him.

“Well?” Lt. Commander Richards asked, watching as Ensign Stuart slid down into the Jefferies tube.

“It looks like they’re rerouting the primary power conduit,” Stuart said. “And making half a dozen other major adjustments to the power nodes while they’re at it.”

“So it doesn’t look like they’re setting up a base of operations in Engineering?”

“No, sir,” Stuart said.

“Funny. Reports from when the Enterprise-E was taken over indicated that Engineering was used as the center of the Borg hive.”

“Well, these are Dawg, not Borg. Maybe they’re setting up their base of operations somewhere else.”

“Excuse me,” Dr. Lana Shar said, sticking her head in between Richards and Stuart. “Does either of you have the faintest idea how to get us out of here?”

“You can leave right now if you want,” Richards said. “But it would be at your own risk.”

“Yeah,” Stuart said. “And we still aren’t sure what the Dawg are doing to the crewmembers that they capture.”

“In that case, I’ll take my chances in here,” Lana said. “But in point of fact, I only came into Engineering to ask you guys to fix the environmental controls in my office.”

“We’ll get to it as soon as possible,” Richards said wryly, crouching down and gesturing for Lana and the other engineering officers to follow him. “But in the meantime, I suggest we keep moving. I saw some daschunds and corgys out there that are probably capable of maneuvering damn fast in a Jefferies tube.”

“I never thought I’d be running from daschunds and corgys,” Lana muttered.

“Welcome to Starfleet,” Stuart said with a grin.

Lt. J’hana swung out of the turbolift shaft and lept to the deck, aiming the searchlight mounted on her rifle around the corridor. “All clear!” she called back into the turbolift shaft.

Baxter, Larkin, Ford, and Tilleran hopped out behind her.

“Looks like primary lighting’s out,” Ford said.

“Hey, I just thought of something,” Baxter said. “When the Borg infested the Enterprise-E, they tried to take hold of the main computer.”

All heads turned to Larkin.

“You did lock out computer control, didn’t you?” Baxter asked.

“I certainly did,” Larkin said. “Would you expect any less of me?”

“Not at all,” Baxter said, wiping a hand across his brow and gesturing for the group to move forward.

Tilleran pulled out a tricorder as the group moved. “According to these scans, everything below deck seven has been occupied by Dawg troops. Main power is being transferred to–oh dear.”

“What?” Baxter asked, looking over Tilleran’s shoulder.

“There appears to be a major diversion of power to Counselor Peterman’s quarters.”

“Could Kelly be in there?” Baxter asked.

“Possibly,” Tilleran replied. “But the Dawg have set up interference emitters all over the ship. It’s hard to get a positive reading on anything.”

“Well, then,” Baxter muttered, “Kelly’s quarters are two decks down. Let’s get moving.”

“Sir, what if the Counselor is–” Tilleran said timidly.

“Then we’ll just have to start buying her kibbles ‘n bits!” Baxter snapped. “Now, move it!”

Lt. Hartley watched the doors to the transporter room nervously and counted the seconds. Any moment now…

Suddenly the doors swooshed open and three Dawgs scampered in.

“Hello, hello, hello,” Hartley sang, tapping at the transporter controls, “I don’t know why you say hello, I say goodbye!”

“I say ‘high,’ you say ‘low,’

You say ‘why?’ and I say ‘I don’t know!’” the speakers in the transporter room boomed.

Hartley quickly ran her fingers up the panel, causing the three Dawgs to dematerialize.

“Whew,” Hartley said. “I can’t keep this up all day.”

The doors quickly opened again, and Hartley locked on and beamed the intruders out before she could even get a good look at them. As soon as the transport began, however, she realized her mistake.

Seconds after stepping into the transporter room, Lana, Richards, Stuart, and three engineering officers dematerialized and reappeared in a cargo bay that was swimming in angry, snarling, barking Dawgs.

“Holy shit, what happened?” Richards asked, climbing the ladder to the top of the cargo rack, quickly followed by Stuart and the others.

Just as the Dawgs began climbing after them, the group dematerialized again.

“Sorry about that,” Hartley said, as Richards and his group reappeared on the transporter pad.

“No problem,” Lana said, “I love being chased down by rapid cybernetic mutts.”

“I guess I mistook you guys for Dawgs,” Hartley explained.

“Do you see any fur here!” Richards exclaimed.

“Sorry,” Hartley said.

Richards examined Hartley’s panel and rubbed his chin. “Wait a minute. How do you still have control of the transporters? The Dawg control all the systems on the ship that weren’t locked out.”

“A reroute here, a snip there, a rearrangement of an isolinear chip here,” Hartley said proudly. “Nothing special.”

“That’s darn good work, Hartley,” Richards said. “And you put all the Dawgs that you transported in that cargo bay?”

“Yep. They’re all sealed up where they can’t hurt anyone.”

“Wonderful,” Lana said. “All we have to do is keep transporting them into cargo bays and we’ll have the whole lot of them under wraps.”

“I don’t think it’ll be that easy,” Richards said.

Suddenly a group of Dawgs rushed into the transporter room, knocking Richards and the others to the ground before they could react. Hartley reached for her panel but was knocked away by a Wiemeraner.

The Wiemeraner stabbed her cybernetic paw device into the transporter panel and began accessing.

“Computer, initiate program Hartley Alpha one four seven, then lock on to all crewmembers in the room and energize!” Hartley cried, as the Dawgs closed in. Hartley and the others dematerized before the Dawg could make another move.

Doctor Browning pried open the Jefferies’ tube hatch and slid out, pushing past the half-open doors and into the Main Engineering compartment. “Honey, I’m home!”

Browning ducked just as a purple beam lashed out at her, hitting the panel behind her. Lt. Gellar slid out of the door after her, firing at the Dawgs gathered at the rear of Engineering. “Keep moving, Doctor!”

The pair hurried behind the sizable master systems console at the center of Engineering.

“I don’t see Christopher anywhere!” Browning said, slinging her phaser rifle over the console that was their cover and firing madly.

“And if he were here, one of you would have hit him by now,” Mirk said, jumping out from the Jeffries tube and moving to join Browning and Gellar. “Allow me.” Mirk stood up and stared at the Dawgs, who immediately began firing at him. The bartender just smiled, as the beams swirled around him and then fired back at the Dawg, knocking them off their feet.

“Neat trick,” Gellar said wryly. “You’ll have to teach me that some time.”

“It takes a lot of concentration,” Mirk said breathlessly.

Browning grabbed a tricorder from on top of the systems display and opened it up. “I detect a lot of Dawgs occupying the surrounding compartments, but I’m not picking up any of the engineering officers. Or any humans beside us for that matter.”

“Where could they have gone?” Amara asked, leading the security officers out of the tube.

“They probably did the smart thing and got the hell out of here,” Gellar said. “Which is exactly what we should do.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” Browning said. “But–”

Suddenly a grinding noise echoed throughout the dark, empty Engineering compartment.

“What the hell is that?” Mirk asked.

“Look!” Gellar said, pointing to the warp core. The long, cylindrical core was slowly sinking downward.

Browning, Mirk, Amara, and the other security officers followed Gellar over to the core, watching helplessly as it slid from its housing and descended through the ship.

“Good Lord, they cracked open the bottom of the ship and they’re sucking the warp core out like a peanut out of its shell!” Browning exclaimed.

“And if we’re not being sucked out of the compartment by the vacuum it could mean only one other thing,” Gellar said.

As the warp core left the ship and the environment beyond the emergency hatch became visible, Gellar’s fears were confirmed.

Browning swallowed hard. “We’re inside the Dawg ship.”

“Faster!” Captain Baxter cried, firing behind him as he ran. Due to the simple fact that he was probably the scaredest, Lt. Ford led the bridge crew down the corridor as a pack of cybernetically advanced greyhounds gave chase.

“I’m going as fast as I can!” Ford cried.

“Wait, stop!” Baxter cried, causing Tilleran, J’hana, and Larkin to slam into him.

Ford stopped several feet ahead, turning. “This better be good!”

Baxter slammed his hand on the doorpanel, causing the huge metal doors to sigh open. “Inside, quick!”

The Dawgs followed Baxter and his officers through the doors and down a long, drafty corridor.

They made several inquiries to the main database as to where they were, but there was no positive answer.

Suddenly the dark corridor gave way to a huge, bright, grassy field, surrounded by hundreds of rows of seats.

The main database was uncertain as to how such a large structure could exist in what the sensors confirmed was a small room, but the Dawg pursued their quarry nonetheless.

“Welcome to Texas Stadium, everyone!” a voice called out. “And, as usual, it’s a beeee-yooo-tiful day. Pat Sommerall and John Madden here with you, ready to start Super Bowl Ninety-Nine Hundred and Three. We’re just about ready for the first play of the game, and I think it’s safe to say everyone’s fired up.”

“You know, Pat, I think you’re right,” another voice called out. “This is what it’s all about. Young guys, tough odds, a lot at stake. It just doesn’t get any better than this.”

“You’re right, John. It’s the makings of a good game. Let’s take a look as the home team calls their first play.”

“Foot…ball?” one of the Dawgs repeated, walking out to the center of the field where Baxter and his officers were huddled. “Baxter, Captain Andrew. Cease all resistance and submit to us for assimilation.”

Baxter ignored them, just kept whispering to his officers.

“Okay guys, this is the plan,” Baxter whispered. “I’ve eliminated the holodeck safeties and had this football converted into a matter/antimatter bomb. Ford, I want you and J’hana to run a post–nothing fancy; Tilleran, you’re in at tight end; Larkin, I want you to block. Then I’ll go for the pass, and whoever is open will lateral to the Borg and blow them to bits. Any questions?”

“Yes, sir,” Ford said quietly.

“Go ahead.”

“Are you insane?”

“Okay, break!” Baxter said, backing out of the huddle. “Thirty-four, Twenty-one, Forty-five, HIKE!”

Ford, J’hana, and Tilleran ran down the field as fast as they could, with a pack of Dawgs chasing them.

Larkin, for her part, slammed into the Dawgs that came towards her and Baxter.

“And there’s the snap. Look at Ford, Tilleran, and J’hana go! And that hit by Larkin…well, that was a textbook block.” said John Madden over the PA.

Baxter quickly armed the football and went back for the throw, just as a snarling Dawg slammed into him.

“Larkin!” Baxter cried, tossing the ball to Larkin.

“Yes, Captain,” Larkin said catching the ball. “What do you wish me to do with this?”

“RUN!” Baxter cried, scrambling out from under the attacking Dawgs.

Larkin did as she was told and bolted for the other end of the field.

“And Baxter dumps it off. Not his style, would you say, John?”

“No, but in a big money game like this, Pat, you’re bound to see some big money plays.”

“Give me the bomb!” J’hana shouted. “Perhaps it will explode in my possession so I can take some Dawgs out with me!”

“As you wish,” Larkin said, tossing the ball to J’hana.

With a horde of Dawgs on his tail, Baxter took off downfield. “J’hana, J’hana, I’m open! Give it to me!”

“What’s this? Baxter’s trying to get ahold of the ball. Is this a variation on the old ‘flea-flicker,’ John?”

“I don’t know what that is. In all my years–”

“Captain, I believe I possess superior athletic prowess. Perhaps–” J’hana said uneasily.

“To me!” Baxter shouted. “That’s an order!”

“Very well,” J’hana sighed, hurling the ball at Baxter.

Baxter put on an extra burst of speed as the crowd of Dawgs gave chase. When he reached the end of the field, he turned around, reared back, and hurled the ball as hard as he could, right into the middle of the pack of Dawgs.

“Would you look at that pass? Beautiful!”

“Hit the dirt!” Ford cried, pushing J’hana to the ground as the blast shook Texas Stadium.

Bits of Dawg rained down as the dust cloud settled.

“Whew,” Baxter said, standing up. “That went off pretty well if I do say so myself.”

“And it looks like Baxter’s team wins it by a hair. That’s a gutsy group, John.”

“That they are, Pat. I sure wouldn’t want to get on their bad side.”

“Whew, that was close,” Richards exclaimed, as he and the others rematerialized.

“Where are we?” Lana asked, looking around the small cabin.

“My quarters,” Hartley said, swinging open a cabinet and pulling several large rifles out. “Everybody take one. Trust me, there’s enough to go around.”

“Are you sure you didn’t beam us to J’hana’s quarters by mistake?” Richards asked wryly, examining one of the firearms.

“Positive,” Hartley said. “I happen to enjoy collecting high powered directed energy weapons.”

“And I figured you for a thimble collector,” Stuart said, checking the setting on his weapon.

“What are these things?” Richards asked. “They sure aren’t regulation Starfleet issue.”

“They’re all different,” Hartley said, “and all equally capable of producing the kind of carnage we’re looking for. Now come on, we’re burning starlight.”

“What are we going to do?” Lana asked, taking one of the rifles from Hartley.

“Find the source of Dawg influence and root it out would be my guess,” Hartley said. “Right, Commander?”

“Well,” Richards said, “I suppose that’s as good a place as any to start.”

“Good,” Hartley said, whipping out a tricorder. “I’m glad we agree. Now, if I’m not mistaken, the highest level of energy transfer is going on in this direction.”

Richards watched Hartley as she led him and the others out of her quarters and down the corridor.

“She’s good, isn’t she?” Stuart whispered.

Richards looked back at the Ensign, annoyed. “Well, sure she is, she’s one of my officers.”

“If she keeps this up, she’ll probably be your commanding officer,” Stuart said with a grin.

“Shut up.”

Lt. Gellar tried not to look down at the dizzying lengths of interconnecting metal that stretched out below him as he crawled along the hull of the Explorer. It seemed as if this section of the Dawg ship was not equipped with a gravity field, so it was pretty easy for him, Mirk, Saral, and Browning to crawl upside down along the bottom of the ship, in search of the missing warp core.

“Would you look at this place?” Mirk said with a low whistle. He stared in awe at the beams of light that criscrossed throughout the huge, open hangar and the tedrils of metal that wrapped around the Explorer as if she was a soft tennis ball in a dog’s mouth.

“It is quite impressive,” Saral said. “It has been my experience that the more malevolent the enemy, the more impressive their vessel.”

“In that case these guys must be the biggest jerks in the universe,” Browning said wryly.

“Indeed,” Saral said, glancing at her tricorder. “Interesting. I am picking up a signature from our stray warp core.”

“Where from?” Browning asked.

“Directly ahead, approximatley three hundred meters.”

“Then let’s get moving,” Gellar said. “The sooner we get that warp core back the better.”

“Has anyone figured on how we’re going to get it back in the ship?” Mirk asked as the group floated along the underside of the Explorer’s saucer towards the direction Saral had indicated.

“Sure,” Browning said. “We’ll use your powers.”

“What if they don’t work?”

“Then we’ll offer them a jerky treat for it,” Gellar grumbled.

“Hmm,” Saral said, looking at her tricorder. “I am picking up several Dawg lifeforms surrounding us.”

“Are they moving in?” Gellar asked.

“Uncertain,” Saral said. “However, I do not believe they see us as a threat.”

“That probably won’t hold out long,” Mirk said.

“Whew!” Baxter said, coming to a stop near a turbolift and wiping his brow. “I think we actually lost them.”

“This turbolift should lead down to Counselor Peterman’s quarters,” J’hana said, prying open the turbolift doors with a grunt and shining her palm beacon down into the shaft.

Suddenly a ghastly white paw reached up and dragged her down the shaft.

“Captain!” J’hana cried as she was pulled through the doors. “Captain, help!”

“We’re coming, J’hana,” Baxter called out, scrambling after the Andorian.

Baxter shined his light down the shaft, trying to hold it steady as he climbed down the ladder.

“Can you see her?” Tilleran asked.

“Barely,” Baxter said, as J’hana and the Dawgs that had her captive disappeared through one of the turbolift doors. “Damn, I lost them.”

Suddenly there was a rumbling throughout the turbolift shaft.

Baxter looked down uncomfortably as he felt the ladder shake. A turbolift was blasting up from below. “Climb, damn it, climb!” he cried. “Hurry!”

Tilleran, Larkin, Ford, and Baxter scrambled up the shaft as the turbolift whined towards them.

Once they reached the first pair of doors, Larkin jerked them open, helping Tilleran and Ford through.

“Wait for me!” Baxter grunted as he tried to pull himself up.

“Hurry, Captain!” Larkin shouted, grabbing Baxter’s arm and hurling him through the air, just as the turbolift blasted through the doors, becoming lodged in the shaft.

“They must have control over the turbolift systems,” Tilleran surmised.

Baxter rubbed his aching head, looking up at the turbolift as it sat there menacingly cradled against the bulkhead. “Well, I guess we’ll have to find another way down then, won’t we?”

Richards braced himself against the recoil of the weapon he had taken from Hartley’s quarters as he blasted away into the oncoming pack of Dawgs. “This thing has a hell of a kick, Hartley!”

“That’s how I like ‘em,” Hartley replied, hurling what looked like an electrified boomerang into one of the Dawg’s chests, causing it to reel back and whine piercingly as an electric field wrapped around it. “Besides, how long do you think we’d hold out firing the same Federation weapons they’re used to?”

“Point taken,” Richards said, firing his weapon again and again, felling Dawgs left and right.

“Through here!” Stuart cried, waving the group toward him. “This is where they’re diverting power!”

Hartley stared at the door fearfully. “Counselor Peterman’s quarters.”

“Makes sense,” Lana said, hoisting a giant ore blaster onto her shoulder. “The Dawg are gravitating toward the greatest concentration of animal life on the ship. What better place to do that than Peterman’s quarters?”

“I’m afraid to look in there,” Richards said quietly.

“Well, we have to,” Hartley said, ripping open the door panel and reaching her hand inside. “Almost…got it…”

Suddenly the door parted a few inches with a metallic grunt. Before Richards could push the doors farther apart, a metal fist punched through and grabbed him by the front of his uniform, jerking him through.

Hartley, Lana, and Stuart followed, only to find a room full of winding black cables and pulsating green, purple, and red lights.

“What the hell is this place?” Lana asked, awestruck.

“Mmmm…my playpen…” a voice echoed throughout the room.

“That sounded like Counselor Peterman!” Hartley exclaimed.

“Not…mmmm…exactly,” the voice said, as the cables and tubes parted. Flanked by several angry looking Dawgs, as well as the freshly cybernetcially engineered Charlie, was Counselor Peterman. Her uniform had been replaced by a tight black leotard of some kind that was wrapped in black cabling, and there were black tubes sticking into her neck, and beeping, blinking lights seemed to be pulsating all around her. Her face was stark white, her lips black, and her fingernails long and sharp. But the most horrible transformation that had come over the Counselor was probably her hair. It was high and puffy, with streaks of white cutting through it in a Bride of Frankenstein-esque beehive. When she bared her teeth, they were jagged like an attack dog’s, and her nose was brownish. As dogs went, Richards thought briefly, she made a pretty hot one.

“Nice hair,” Hartley said fearfully.

“Glad you like it,” Peterman growled.

“It’s a new look for you, isn’t it?” Richards added.

“Mmm hmm. I’d like to think it brings out my…eyes.” Peterman’s eyes glowed yellow.

“The Captain will be pissed,” Stuart said.

“The Captain will be assimilated right along with each and every one of you!” Peterman shrieked. “Resistance is futile! You will all become one with the Dawg!”

“Boy, talk about mood swings,” Richards said uneasily. “Are you having cramps, too?”

“I don’t want to talk about it!” Peterman growled. She moved sultrily over to Lana and ran a long, black fingernail up the line of spots on her neck. “You are Trill, aren’t you my dear?”

“Yes, I am, why?” Lana asked fearfully.

“Just wondering,” Peterman said, looking back to the dark area behind the wall of cabling. “Commander, I have a present for you!”

There was ecstatic barking from behind the cable as Commander Conway lept out, covered in orange fur, wagging his tail and scratching eagerly behind his ear.

“I don’t belive it,” Hartley said, smiling slightly. “Isn’t he a cute little golden retwiever?”

“Woof!” Conway barked happily.

“This isn’t funny!” Richards said. “You can’t do this,” he said, turning to Peterman. “Put our fellow officers back the way you found them and leave our ship.”

“My dear,” Peterman growled. “I have not yet begun to assimilate. Conway, take the Trill away.”

Lana cried out as Conway grabbed onto her with both paws, jerking her backwards.

“Dr. Shar!” Hartley cried, lifting up her weapon. Peterman made a high-pitched yowp and batted Hartley away. A long, black, furry tail swooshed out from behind Peterman and grabbed Richards’s weapon as well.

“We have to get out of here!” Stuart cried, shooting the Dawgs that were advancing towards them.

“I would tend to agree,” Richards said, picking Hartley up and moving for the door.

“You can run wherever you want!” Peterman shrieked. “But you won’t find a safe place on this entire ship!”

Hartley tried to ignore the sound of frantic shouting, growling, and mewing that came from the darker parts of Peterman’s quarters as she scrambled towards the door.

“Holy Jeeze!” Browning cried as she, Gellar, Mirk, and Saral emerged in the bay adjacent to the one where the Explorer was being held.

The warp core was being pulled by a tractor beam into what looked like a gigantic mouth, lined with sharp, dangerous looking teeth.

“Suggestions?” Gellar asked quietly.

“Do your thing, Mirk,” Browning said. “It’s the only chance we have of getting out of here.”

“Here goes nothing,” Mirk said, floating forward and concentrating the full force of his blossoming powers on the warp core.

A blue field glowed around the core as he concentrated, and for a moment it stopped moving, caught between the power of the Dawg ship and the Maloxian.

“Come on, Mirk!” Browning cried. “You can do it!”

Mirk grunted as he mentally pulled back on the warp core. “I don’t know…their beam is really strong.”

“Keep pulling!” Gellar said.

Suddenly the tractor beam seemed to increase power as it jerked the core back, dragging Mirk along with it.

“Mirk, be careful!” Browning called out.

“I’m doing my damnedist!” Mirk said, pulling back through midair and trying to stop the core from moving. “Give, boy, give!” he shouted. “Bad Dawg!”

“YOU MUST NOT RESIST,” a voice thundered around him. Actually, it was several voices. Actually, it was several voices, and several growls and barks.

“I sure as heck will,” Mirk replied. “Now give me back that warp core!”


“What if I give you a treat?” Mirk asked, grasping at straws.


“I don’t know. I’m thinking,” Mirk said.

“Knick nack paddy wack,” Browning said quietly to herself.

“Pardon?” Gellar asked, confused.

“GIVE A DAWG A BONE!” Browning cried out.

“BONE?” the chorus of voices asked.

Mirk shook his head. “You’re asking me to materialize something out of thin air while I’m pulling on this warp core. I don’t know if I have that much power.”

“BONE,” the chorus said resoundingly.

“You can do it!” Gellar said. “Remember when we fell out of the rollercoaster and you made that big pillow! And when you caged up the Dawg in your bar?”

“But I the effect is only temp–”

“Shut up!” Gellar replied. “They don’t have to know that!”

“BONE!” the Dawg shouted, jerking Mirk towards them harder.

“Okay, okay,” Mirk said, “you asked for it. But I’m going to need your help, Ensign Saral.”

“I am honored, Mr. Mirk, that you believe my telepathic abilities would add to your own,” Saral said, moving over to join Mirk.

“Maybe I just like it when you touch my head,” Mirk muttered, as Saral placed her hands on the sides of Mirk’s face.

“My mind to your mind, your thoughts to my thoughts,” Saral said quietly.

“Think bone, Saral, think bone!” Gellar cried out.

Mirk giggled.

“That isn’t funny Mr. Mirk,” Saral said seriously, not opening her eyes as she concentrated.

“Sorry,” Mirk replied self-conciously.

As Mirk and Saral concentrated on the area in front of the giant mouth, a huge glossy white meatbone grew into existence.

“We’re doing it!” Mirk cried.

“Bigger!” Browning called out.

The meatbone grew and grew until it almost filled the entire bay.

“BONE!” the Dawg repeated. The tractor beam cut off immediately and latched onto the bone.

“I guess they’re still just big dumb dogs at heart,” Browning said.

Mirk immediately fixed his concentration on the warp core and tugged at it with all his mental might. “Help me pull this thing, Saral!”

“Affirmative,” Saral replied, concentrating the force of her thoughts on the warp core.

“Hop on!” Mirk cried, gliding past Browning and Gellar with the core in tow.

“How long will that bone last?” Gellar asked, climbing on behind Saral and Browning.

“No telling. Not long though.”

“Well I for one don’t want to be around when it disappears,” Browning said.

“You’re not kidding,” Mirk said, struggling to pull the warp core toward the Explorer.

Captain Baxter slipped the cover off the ventilation duct and slid out, followed by Larkin, Ford, and Tilleran.

“Kelly’s quarters are this way,” Baxter said, gesturing the group down the corridor with his rifle. “Hurry.”

“Sir,” Larkin said, looking up from her tricorder as they approached the door to Peterman’s quarters. “I am picking up very strange readings from the Counselor’s quarters.”

“I’m not surprised,” Baxter said. “There are strange readings all over the–” he stopped when he came to the open door to Peterman’s quarters. The room seemed to be completely trashed. Cabling hung from the ceiling, the furniture was gone, and the room was completely vacant.

“Where is Kelly?” Baxter asked.

“And for that matter, where are the Dawg?” Ford asked.

“Part of me would rather not know,” Tilleran said, running her tricorder over the room carefully.

“We have to find her,” Baxter said, kneeling down and picking up a red and white spotted handkerchief. “Hey, this is Charlie’s.”

“Well, it was Charlie’s anyway,” Ford muttered.

“Damn,” Baxter said, pocketing the handkerchief and rising to his feet. “Suggestions?”

Larkin scanned the room carefully with her tricorder. “There were several human and Dawg lifesigns in this room within the last hour. They could not have gotten far.”

Tilleran leaned inside one of the gutted bulkhead panels. “By the looks of it, they diverted a major amount of ship’s power to this room and then diverted it away.”

“Can you track down where the power was diverted to?” Baxter asked excitedly.

“Stand by,” Tilleran said, examining her tricorder readings. “There seems to be a major power buildup around deck twelve, aft section”

Baxter thought a moment. “The arboretum!”

“Perhaps they are gathering their forces in an animal-friendly environ,” Larkin offered.

“That’s a cozy thought,” Ford said. “They’re probably gathering our forces too.”

“Sir, that would fit the Borg profile,” Larkin said. “If we were to assume that these Dawgs were similar in behavior to the Borg, then–”

“I get your point,” Baxter said. “Which is why we need to get to deck twelve on the double.”

Tilleran and the rest followed Baxter back out into the corridor. “Any ideas on how to do that, Captain?”

“Well, the turbolifts and transporters are out,” Baxter said, cautiously moving down the corridor. “That leaves the Jefferies’ tubes.”

“Not a good idea, sir,” Larkin said. “According to my tricorder readings there are heavy Dawg lifeform traces in the Jeffries’ tube access.”

“Okay, well, that leaves levitating through the floor,” Ford said wryly.

“On the contrary, Mr. Ford, there is another way,” Larkin said, holding up her middle finger for the Captain’s approval.

“This is no time for rude gestures, Larkin!” Baxter scolded.

Suddenly the finger flipped open, exposing a long, cylindrical metal rod.

“Your computer access nodule!” Baxter said excitedly. “Are you sure interfacing the computer systems with that is a good idea? What if the Dawg programs infect your system?”

“There are several safeguards in place to prevent that,” Larkin said. “Additionally, I believe the risk is worthwhile. If I can access the transporter systems and purge the Dawg control files from the memory, I may be able to initiate a site-to-site transport.”

“It sounds risky to me, Captain,” Tilleran said uneasily.

“But Larkin has a point,” Baxter said. “If we don’t get down there to deck twelve we won’t be able to stop the Dawg from doing whatever diabolical things they plan on doing to this ship. Initiate the interface, Larkin.”

“Aye, sir,” Larkin said, pulling open one of the comm panels and inserting her finger.

With an electric crackle, Larkin’s eyes rolled into the back of her head and her whole body went ramrod straight.

“I take it we’re in?” Ford asked.

Twenty seconds later, Larkin’s eyes snapped open.

“Well?” Baxter said expectantly, leaning forward, with Ford and Tilleran on either side of him.

“Arrrrrr….woof!” Larkin replied, baring her teeth and growling menacingly.

“Hmm,” Baxter said, rubbing his chin. “So did you get into the system and restore computer control?”

“Grrrllll….woof woof!”

“It appears something went wrong,” Tilleran said.

Baxter eyed Larkin suspiciously. “She seems none the worse for wear. Are you all right, Larkin?”

“Woof!” Larkin said, nodding and wagging her tongue happily.

“Good, good,” Baxter said. “Can you activate that site to site we talked about?”

“Woof!” Larkin said, and with that, the group disappeared.

“Go, go, go!” Richards shouted, firing his phaser rifle back through the Jefferies’ tube at the madly scampering cybernetic daschunds as Stuart, Hartley, and his engineers crawled frantically into the adjoining tunnel. “They’re gaining on us!”

“If you haven’t noticed,” Hartley mumbled, “we don’t exactly have a lot of options on where to go.”

“Well, if we stop, we’re all going to need flea collars,” Richards said, sliding into the vertical tunnel and tapping his foot nervously as Hartley worked on the panel for the ladder access.

“I see your point,” Hartley remarked, as she jimmied the ladder access door open. “Everybody out–deck twelve: lingerie, cosmetics, and housewares.” Hartley waited until everyone was through and blasted into the horizontal tunnel, injuring several of the Dawgs before ducking into the vertical tunnel and manually pumping the door shut. “Be good puppies!”

The group moved quickly down the ladder, jumping once they were halfway down, on account of the rapidly gaining Dawg soldiers.

“Move it, move it!” Richards ordered, waving everyone through the door that led out into the corridor.

Hartley slid the door shut and welded it closed with her rifle beam, following the group down the winding corridor.

Stuart examined his tricorder. “I’m picking up Dr. Shar’s comm badge signal, as well as a whole kennel full of Dawg troops.”

“And Peterman?”

“I can’t tell. She would probably register as a Dawg lifesign at this point,” Stuart said, shrugging.

“We have to try to rescue Dr. Shar,” Richards said.

“Are you crazy?” Hartley said. “Didn’t you hear Stuart? All the Dawgs are convening at that spot. It’s not exactly going to be a picnic getting in.”

“Well, I for one don’t have anything else scheduled for today,” Richards said. “Now are you guys in or not?”

“How can I resist?” Hartley asked wryly, following Richards, Stuart and the other engineering officers.

Lt. Gellar pumped the door at the bottom of the warp core closed as Mirk and Saral steadily pushed the core up into its housing.

“Whew!” Mirk said, falling back to the deck. “That was exausting.”

Saral raised an eyebrow. “I found it enlightening. Your mind is quite powerful. Once you learn to properly use it, your powers will be almost limitless.”

“That’s nice,” Mirk said. “What about the cybernetic poodles that are clawing at the door?”

“I don’t know,” Browning said. “How about a nice cybernetic dog catcher?”

“I’m not laughing,” Gellar said. “If we’re going to bust out of here, we’re going to have to find someone to reattach the warp core.”

“That’s going to be tough considering that we haven’t seen an engineering officer since we arrived down here,” Browning replied.

“Well, we’d better start looking. No telling how long we’ll be able to keep the Dawg out of this compartment.”

“Why are we worried about them getting in this compartment?” Mirk asked. “Directors, they’re infesting the entire ship!”

Suddenly lights flickered on all around the lower deck, all the way up into Main Engineering.

Amara dangled her head over the railing. “Are you guys okay down there? It looks like main power just came back on!”

“It sure seems like it,” Mirk replied. “But we haven’t attached the warp core yet.”

Lt. Gellar pulled open a panel and peered at the blinking lights. “Well, we’ve got computer controls back, but don’t ask me how.”

“Then the comm system works?” Browning asked.

“Only one way to find out,” Gellar said. “Lt. Gellar to Captain Baxter. Do you read?”

“This is Baxter. Larkin was able to get computer controls back. What’s your status, Lieutenant?”

“Dr. Browning, Mr. Mirk, and I just rescued the warp core from the Dawg and we’re down in Engineering now trying to reattach it. Do you have any idea where the engineers went?”

“No clue. I didn’t even realize the Dawg had taken the warp core. Baxter to Richards, can you hear me?”

“Richards here.”

“Are you okay, Richards?”

“Um, not really. You see, sir, I have some bad…uh…news about the Counselor.”

“Ah, don’t tell me…”

“Andy, she’s been assimilated.”

“Jeeze, how bad?”

“Pretty damned bad. But the changes are somewhat…well, erotic.”

“Hmm. Where is she?”

“Actually, uh…” Richards cleared his throat “…she’s right here with me.”

“WHAT? Where are you?”


“We’re on our way to your location now!” Baxter cried. “Hold tight!”

“Andy my love, this is Kelly…or what’s left of her. Come play with me!” screeched the mechanical/animal voice of Peterman over the comm.

Gellar tapped the channel closed on his comm badge. “Well, it looks like everyone’s got their hands full up there.”

“Oh, goody, my darling Andy will be here soon to join me!” Peterman said gaily, prancing about the open grassy knoll at the center of the arboretum. She circled the grass and crouched, stretching out her back and growling hungrily, licking her chops. “Come on, Andy…”

Richards, Hartley, Stuart and the two surviving engineers were strapped tightly by Dawg cables to nearby trees. Black cables snaked and intertwined, dancing insanely through the huge arboretum as Dawg technology spread. Black machinery, gears, probes, saws, and other evil implements surged out of the ground as the Explorer was transformed. Cybernetic animals–Peterman’s and those originally of the Dawg vessel scampered about the grassy expanse, some shooting red beams and others just having an old-fashioned good time romping.

“Let me thank you again for joining us,” Peterman said, crawling over to the outcropping of trees where Richards, Hartley, Stuart, and the others were being held captive. “This little celebration just wouldn’t be the same without you.”

“Glad we could brighten up your day,” Hartley muttered.

“Can I ask you one little question?” Richards asked.

“Mmmm…shoot,” Peterman said, curling herself around the tree trunk sultrily.

“Why are you so hell-bent on turning people into cyborg animals? Why not just plain old cyborgs?”

“Our people are an old, strong, determined race,” Petersen growled. “When we were assimilated by the Borg they were not prepared for the sheer force of our wills. We took their fleet of ships and made them our own. But we inherited a dark gift from them: The need to conquer. For eons we were content to stay in our relatively small sector of space. But now, aided by the impressive Borg machinery, we are capable of taking this whole galaxy.”

“And you’ll do that by making us all cute and furry?” asked Hartley, incredulous.

“More or less. I really wish you could understand the appeal of seeing things from the point of view of a member of the fluffy little animal kingdom. There’s such a clear sense of purpose. Such a sense of what must be done for survival. Call it instinct, call it–”


Peterman frowned, causing her whiskers to twitch slightly. “You’ll be so much easier to talk to once we finish our alterations.”

“If you haven’t noticed, computer control has been restored. Our people will have this ship back under control within minutes,” Hartley said resentfully.

“Maybe,” Peterman said. “But we’re in the heart of one of our vessels. There is literally nowhere for you to run.”

“But we could destroy this ship,” Richards said. “Captain Baxter would do it.”

“You’re not giving me enough credit. I have access to all of Peterman’s knowledge. Baxter is a coward. He’d sooner see you all assimilated than blow up this entire ship.”

“We’ll see about that, Alpo-breath!” Baxter cried out from the doorway at the other end of the arboretum.

“Bravo, bravo!” Peterman said, flopping her tail around excitedly. “Come to me, my chubby little mate and let me turn you over to the Dawg side!”

“Never!” Baxter shouted, glancing over his right shoulder as several Dawg troops advanced on him from the grassy fields. “Now, Tilleran!”

Suddenly a wave of electricity crackled throughout the arboretum, jumping from one Dawg to another, causing them to collapse on the grass, whining and barking all the while.

“Pardon me, excuse me, coming through,” Baxter said, pushing through the writhing Dawgs towards the stage.

“No, no, no!” Peterman shrieked, rising up, baring her teeth. Her claws lengthened and her hair puffed up to make her seem twice her normal height. “This just won’t do!”

Baxter grimaced as he approached Peterman. “Honey, I really have to talk to you about your recent fashion choices.”

“You’ll see that basic black is very versatile in a lady’s wardrobe,” Peterman purred, wrapping her claws around Baxter’s neck and jerking him into a grove of trees with inuman strength. “Now come on, can’t you see I’m in heat!”

“Oh, boy,” Baxter said, as Peterman dragged him across the grass. Meters away, he caught sight of Hartley, Richards, Stockton and others, struggling to break free of the trees they were tied to.

Ford hurried over to rescue Richards and the others.

“What the heck did Tilleran do?” Richards asked with interest as Ford freed him.

“Some kind of electrostatic interference pulse, I think. It temporarily shorted out all the Dawgs’ command circuits,” Ford said, smiling as he untied Hartley. “Miss me, baby?”

“Not a bit,” Hartley said.

“You know, I could leave you tied up…”

“And I could work one knee free and make sure you hit that high note you keep trying to get in the shower.”

“How did you know about that?” Ford said, quickly loosening the cables.

“Call it woman’s intuition.”

“We have to rescue Commander Conway and Dr. Shar,” Richards said. “They were assimilated.”

“So was J’hana,” Ford said.

“You can’t escape that easily!” Peterman said as she grappled with Baxter. “Fido of Dawg, Fluffy of Dawg! Attack!”

“Who?” Ford asked, confused.

Suddenly the cybernetically altered Conway and J’hana scampered out from the grove of trees behind Peterman, growling viciously.

“Oh, dear,” Hartley said, covering her mouth.

She had already seen Conway, but it appeared that J’hana had been fused with DNA from a basset hound.

“Stay, guys, stay!” Hartley said, raising a hand into the air.

Conway and J’hana ignored the transporter chief and lept through the air, mouths open and dripping with saliva.

Meanwhile, Peterman had been able to force Baxter back into a dark thicket of gnarled trees.

“Pretty cozy, huh snookums?” Peterman purred, listening eagerly to the carnage that was going on nearby between altered and unaltered crewmembers of the Explorer.

“You are not my snookums!” Baxter said angrily.

“Cap–Captain…” a voice said quietly.

“Lana, is that you?” Baxter asked, whipping his head around.

“What…what’s left of me.”

Peterman rolled her eyes. “Stay put, Patches! I’m not finished with you yet.”

“She took my…my…symbiont, Captain!” Lana said, straining against the cables that held her against a nearby tree.

Baxter peered through the darkness. Part of Lana’s midsection was obscured. “Damn it, why’d you go and do a thing like that?”

Peterman let out a long, soft purr into Baxter’s ear. “She’s just being difficult. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t replace it with something else.”

Baxter pushed Peterman away and moved forward hesitantly. “Good Lord what did you replace it with?”

“See for yourself,” Peterman mewed.

As Baxter neared, he saw an orange claw reach out of the darkness and scrath at his uniform.

“Fritz?” Baxter asked in amazement.

“He’s shedding inside me!” Lana cried out in disgust.

In the slightly improved light, Baxter could now see the ugly truth of what the Dawg had done to Lana.

The front half of Fritz snarled up at Baxter out of Lana’s stomach as his two front paws swiped at the air frantically.

“Now, come on,” Peterman said, stepping up behind Baxter. “You have to admit, you don’t see that every day.”

Baxter’s temper was coming to a nice, slow, boil. “There’s a reason for that you…twisted…sick…bitch!”

“And that is?”

“BECAUSE IT’S TOTALLY DERANGED!” Baxter cried, turning on Peterman and reaching for her neck.

“Oooh, your Peterman just loves it when you play rough. And I think I do too.”

Baxter pushed Peterman against a tree roughly. “Listen, pal, I don’t know how you operate in your little corner of the galaxy, but where I come from we consider it common courtesy not to infest someone’s starship, monkey around with their crew, stick baby cats where symbionts should be and take a perfectly gorgeous head of dark hair and dye it virtually beyond repair!”

“You’re so cute when that little vein bulges out of your head,” Peterman said sultrily.

“I’m not finished!” Baxter growled. “I want you and all your little puppies and all your little experiments and all your little modifications off my f***ing ship NOW!”

“Well, that’s not very neighborly of you,” Peterman said with a frown.

“And I don’t want to be your f***ing neighbor!” Baxter shouted.

“Get off!” Hartley cried, shaking what used to be Commander Conway vigorously.

“Ouch, ouch, that hurts!” Ford winced as J’hana clamped solidly onto his leg. “Get off me!”

Richards watched as Hartley and Ford valiantly tried to keep the altered crewmembers at bay as Tilleran led him and Stuart toward the arboretum exit. “You say the core was completely detached and taken into the Dawg vessel?”

“From what Dr. Browning has told me, it sounds like the whole ship was taken into the Dawg vessel,” Tilleran said.

“But we have the core back,” Richards replied. “It’s just not attached?”

“Bingo,” Tilleran said.

“Bingo?” Stuart asked. “Hey, wasn’t there a farmer that had a–”

“No!” Tilleran and Richards shouted at the same time.

“I’d love to help you out, Captain,” Lana said as she helplessly watched Captain Baxter grapple with Counselor Peterman. “But not only am I tied down, but I have this wretched little animal’s hind legs clambering about in my innards, not to mention the fact that he’s bound to bust out of my stomach any minute. And who even knows where my symbiont–”

“Do me a favor, Doctor!” Baxter grunted as he tried to pull one of the tubes out of Counselor Peterman’s neck. “Save the complaining until I’ve defeated the villain that’s taken over my girlfriend’s body!”

“Fine, fine. I suppose my problems are nothing compared to yours,” Lana muttered.

“Just…shut…up…” Baxter said, cramming his hand down into Peterman’s face. She snarled, drooled and bit at his fingers. “Man, I’m so trying not to get turned on by this!”

“You can’t resist!” Peterman cackled. “Don’t you see you are helpless against the Dawg? We have all that the Borg lack. We have spice…panache …style!”

“At this point I’d almost be happy to fight a Borg. At least they don’t muck around with people’s DNA.”

Lana strained against the cables that held her at bay as Baxter and Peterman fought. “Someone help me!” she cried.

“Oh, keep your pants on,” a strange-sounding voice said from the darkness.

“Hello?” Lana asked.

Suddenly Charlie romped up next to Lana, wagging his tail excitedly.

“Who’s out there?”

“Don’t you recognize me?” Charlie asked, obviously having quite a problem mouthing the words.

Lana narrowed her eyes as she looked down at the Golden Retriever. “Shar?”

“None other than,” Charlie said woefully. “How rude for them to rip me out and stick me into this filthy mutt.”

“Well, look at me,” Lana said angrily. “Do I look like I’m much better off?”

“At least you don’t keep getting the urge to lick your genitals,” Charlie barked out. “Do you know how disgusting that is? I just can’t seem to stop myself.”

“Enough chit-chat,” Lana said urgently. “Try to get me free.”

“With what? My paws?”

“No, your mouth, silly!”

Charlie approximated a frown. “Oh, how primitive.”

“Now is not the time to be picky, Shar! Just pull me loose.”

“Okay, okay, you don’t have to be so bossy,” Charlie mumbled. His speech slurred as he worked the cables free with his mouth. “You know, I’m really getting the urge to slap the hell out of that cat that’s stuck inside you with my paws.”

“Dogs hate cats,” Lana said. “Don’t you understand that simple concept?”

“Of course I do,” Charlie said, offended. “I simply mean that it is difficult to reconcile my thoughts with that of a dumb, idiotic, filthy animal. Not that there’s that much of a difference between it and you.”

“Oh, I should let this cat scratch your eyes out,” Lana muttered, pulling away from the tree she was lashed to.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Can I help you, Captain?” Lana asked, looking over at Baxter and Peterman as they fought.

“Not…not really,” Baxter said, as he and Peterman rolled onto the rough ground. “We’re doing fine, thanks.”

“You know, you never even managed to ask about the implants that were controlling this dog,” Charlie said. “I was able to use my superior mental ablity to disable them.”

“Aren’t you special,” Lana said. “Too bad you can’t do that to the rest of the ship.”

“Yes, it’s a pity,” Charlie agreed. “But at this point I’d settle for opposable thumbs.”

“Enough games,” Peterman said, hopping out from under Baxter and flipping through the air acrobatically, landing gracefully on her clawed feet. “I’ve toyed with your crew long enough. It’s time to finish this.”

“Woof?” Lt. Commander Larkin said, scampering on all fours into the thicket of trees. “Woof woof.”

Baxter and Peterman stopped fighting for a minute and looked over. “What did you say?” Baxter asked.

Charlie rolled his eyes and sighed. “She says that she can’t get access to the Dawg control systems from the inert Dawg troops outside, and that she needs to find the Dawg Queen, whoever that may be.”

“I have a hunch about that,” Baxter said, pointing to Peterman, then whispering, “HER!”

“What do I look like, a message service?” Charlie asked, annoyed.

“Do it, or I’ll come after you with a newspaper!” Baxter growled.

“Fine, fine,” Charlie muttered. “Lt. Commander Larkin, woof woof woof.”

Peterman had been watching the whole exchange with interest. “I must admit, Captain, you have a versatile bunch on this ship,” she said. “It’s a good thing you will all be added to our hive.” Peterman approached Baxter and grabbed him by the collar. “You first.”

“Now, Larkin!” Baxter cried.

“Woof, Larkin!” Charlie barked.

Peterman turned just in time to see the glinting metal rod within Larkin’s middle finger plunge into her shoulder, causing a crackle of electricity to run throughout her body.

“Nooooooo!” Peterman shrieked, falling limp into Baxter’s arms.

“Richards to Baxter. I just got warp power back up. But the Dawg force field is still in place,” came Richards’ voice over the comm.

Baxter looked to Larkin, then worriedly down at Peterman as the electricity dissipated and her eyes rolled back. “Larkin, access the Dawg control circuits and power down all their shields and weapons! Then set their ship to self destruct.”

“Woof woof woof woof!” Charlie barked urgently.

Larkin’s eyes moved rapidly from side to side, and suddenly the whole Explorer began to shake.

“What the hell is happening out there?” Richards asked.

“We’re putting the Dawg to sleep, permanently,” Baxter replied. “Reroute helm and weapons to your station and blast us the hell out of here, Richards!”

“Aye, sir!”

Baxter held onto Counselor Peterman and a close tree as the ship thundered around them. He looked up at the artificial sky. At the very ceiling of the arboretum, an array of long, shiny windows showed the interior of the Dawg vessel streak by, then give way to starry space. Then the whole arboretum lit up with the Dawg vessel’s explosion.

"’…putting the Dawg to sleep?” Lana said, shaking her head. “That was terrible, Captain.”

Baxter shrugged. “Give me a break. It’s been a rough day.”

Captain’s Log,

Supplemental. Well, the cavalry from Starfleet did arrive, albeit a little late. The starships Salerno and Kamarov arrived about an hour after we destroyed the Dawg ship, just in time to give aid to the badly damaged Geraldo Colony. I’d like to point out, however, that without us there wouldn’t have been a colony left to save. Meanwhile, we’re on our way to a starbase to have all the Dawg technology purged from our systems and to provide the crewmembers that were assimilated with an assimilation support group that I’m told is quite helpful.

“Drinks are on the house tonight, everyone,” Mirk said, turning a chair right side up and joining Richards, Hartley, Gellar, and Ford at one of the larger tables in the Constellation Cafe.

“I’d rather get a good night’s sleep than get drunk,” Richards said, stretching out his arms and yawning. “And I wouldn’t feel right celebrating without Janice. She’ll be up another four hours seeing to all the casualties caused by the Dawg.”

“I’m more worried about Peterman, Conway, J’hana, and Shar,” Hartley said. “Who knows what this has done to their minds? What if they wake up tomorrow with the unstoppable urge to keep scratching theirselves?”

“That happens to me every morning,” Ford said sheepishly, laughing at his own joke for several moments before Lt. Gellar whacked him upside the head.

“It’s amazing how quickly things can go from perfectly normal to having your girlfriend shed all over you,” Richards said after a few moments of silence. “Are we forever destined to experience this wierdness time and again?”

“I’ll tell you one thing,” Hartley said resolutely, “as soon as the wierdness stops, I’m handing in my resignation.”

“I wouldn’t plan your retirement too soon,” Mirk said with a smile.

“Yeah,” Ford said, “the Galaxy has an infinite supply of bizarre things to offer.”

“We’re certainly doing our best to prove that,” Gellar said with a smirk.

“You gotta love Starfleet,” Hartley said with a smile.

“How do you feel, Counselor?” Dr. Browning said, pulling the cover of the biobed aside and allowing Peterman to sit up.

Peterman rubbed the sore spot on her arm where an implant had been and smiled weakly. “Hung over.”

“Kelly…” Baxter said, rushing forward and embracing Peterman. “I’m sorry I had to punch you in the face and order Larkin to jam her finger into your shoulder.”

“It’s okay, Andy,” Peterman said tiredly. “I would have done the same thing in your place. Besides, that bitch that had control of my body deserved it.”

“Can you remember anything about her?” Browning asked with interest.

“Not very much,” Peterman said. “I know that the Dawg are definitely very protective of their species. They feel like all the actions they took are necessary to keep them from extinction.”

“Well, that’s all well and good,” Baxter said. “But that doesn’t excuse trying to destroy a colony or take over this ship.”

“Destroying the colony was only a ploy to lure us here,” Peterman said. “The Dawg knew all about our ship from their previous encounter with us. They had access to crew profiles and all sorts of ship schematics. They knew all about me and figured I’d be the perfect person to help them assimilate the Federation, because I’m so good with animals.”

“I guess they didn’t bet on the rest of the crew hating animals so much,” Conway grunted, sliding off his biobed.

“Come on, Commander,” Lt. Tilleran said, as she ran scans on Conway, Lana, and J’hana. “Hasn’t your experience given you any insights into the wonders of the animal mind?”

“Not really,” Conway muttered. “It just gave me one hell of a flea problem.”

“The funny thing is,” Peterman said wearily, “the Dawg just think of humans as another type of animal. To them, we’re just one more species to add to their collection.”

“Technically speaking, that’s pretty accurate,” Tilleran said.

“I wonder how that Dawg race could have actually withstood a Borg attack and adapted to it,” Baxter said.

Browning nodded. “Whatever the case, I don’t think I want to bump into them again.”

Peterman shrugged. “I don’t know, Janice. Something tells me that unless we stop expanding into unknown space, we’re going bump into even worse civilizations.”

“Well, I doubt Starfleet is ready to stop hanging around the playground just because of a couple of bullies,” Baxter said, folding his arms. “And if they were, we’d all be out of a job.”

“Every now and then the concept of a nice, safe, desk job appeals to me,” Conway said. “Clerks don’t get turned into Golden Retrievers.”

“None that you know of, anyway,” Browning said with a wry grin.

“At any rate,” Baxter said, “we’re here to make sure that the good people of the Galaxy are safe from threats like the Dawg. No one should go to bed at night scared of the possibility of having a kitty cat shoved into their stomach, or having their DNA mixed with that of a Basset hound.”

“Are you finished?” Conway asked.

Baxter grinned. “For now.”

Browning injected a hypospray into Lana, who slowly rose from her biobed, looking around wearily. “Can someone tell me what the hell happened?”

“It’ll take a while for her memories and the symbiont’s to reconcile,” Browning explained.

Conway extended a hand to the confused Trill. “In that case, why don’t I take you and the symbiont out to a nice, late supper?”

Lana looked down at Conway’s hand then looked up at him. “I’m not in a dog any more?”

“Uh-uh,” Browning said.

“And I don’t have a cat in me any more?”

“Nope,” Conway said with a smile.

“Well, thank goodness,” Lana said, sliding off the table. “I’ve never been in two predicaments that were so…embarrassing.”

“I…errg, know what you mean,” J’hana mumbled, rising from her biobed.

“Listen, guys, I don’t know how to break this to you,” Tilleran said timidly, “but I’ve seen some…well, side-effects in Charlie and I think you guys should be aware of them because you may be affected as well.”

“What do you mean?” Conway asked.

Without saying another word, Tilleran walked over and began scratching Conway under his armpit. As if it was beyond his control, Conway began madly slapping his foot against the floor.

“Just great,” Conway said. “How long will this last?”

“No way of telling,” Tilleran said.

“Just don’t start sniffing my crotch,” Lana warned.

“No promises,” Conway muttered, still slapping his foot on the floor.

“What kind of side-effects did you find in Charlie?” Peterman asked.

“Well, evidently some of the Shar symbiont’s abilities rubbed off on him.”

“Such as?” Lana asked with interest.

“Apparently he has become quite adept at three-dimensional chess.”

“That’s not so bad,” Peterman said. “As a matter of fact, I’m happy for him.”

Suddenly there was the loud sound of barking outside the doors to sickbay.

“Must be Charlie now,” Baxter said.

Everyone went to the doors, which parted to reveal Lt. Larkin clambering down the hall after Charlie, growling with rage.

“When will Richards get around to purging that Dawg programming from Larkin?” Baxter asked, annoyed.

“I don’t know, but it seems like the Dawg program doesn’t like being beat at 3-D chess,” Browning observed.

“Apparently not,” Tilleran agreed.

“We’d better go round them up,” Baxter sighed.

“I’ll take care of this,” Peterman said, crouching down on all fours and taking off down the corridor.

“Wait up!” Conway, Lana, and J’hana cried, following after Peterman, barking happily along the way.

Baxter watched, hands on hips, as the group disappeared down the corridor. “Now how the hell am I going to deal with this?”

Browning shrugged. “Obedience school?”


How will Counselor Peterman bounce back from her Dawg assimilation? Will she ever see pets quite the same way again? And when Dr. Louis Zimmerman comes aboard to test a new type of hologram on the Explorer, the crew takes the opportunity to find out just how many jobs an emergency hologram can do. Don’t miss “IMAGE IS EVERYTHING”!

Tags: vexed