Star Traks: The Vexed Generation is based on Alan Decker's Star Traks, which in turn is based on Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry. No matter when you started on this journey with us, I'm glad you're here now. Star Traks is not fan fiction. It's not serious fiction. It's not comedy fiction. Okay, it is all those things. Just read and maybe it'll make more sense (but don't count on it). The story herein may include violence, mild foul language, and the rare gently awkward sexual encounters, but mostly it's just a nerd having fun in a universe he loves. I hope you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it. Welcome aboard!

Author: Anthony Butler
Copyright: 2022

Author’s Notes: I’m as surprised as you are. But here we are again. This story is set four years after the final scene in Star Traks: The Vexed Generation “All’s Well That Ends,” which is 19 years after the bulk of the series, and 27 years after the series began, for those who are keeping track.

For Nelson, my father, my hero, and my admiral. For Alan, the father of Star Traks and his own beautiful family, and my best friend. And for Father Time, who is watching over us all.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Yogi Berra




“This is the galaxy. A place of wonder. A place of adventure. A place of unparalleled glory. The stars are your playground. They are your key to discovery. Beyond them, untold adventure awaits…”

The massive dome revealed an array of stars, pinpricks of light moving at light speed, opening up into a vista of stellar phenomena, nebulae, black holes, exploding novae, and more.

The ethereal voice continued. “Space. A vast frontier. These are your voyages. Your mission, to expand your horizons, enhance your intellect, and boldly go where few great explorers have gone…”

Admiral Andy Baxter sat up in his seat, adjusted his tunic, and leaned forward on his knees. “This is a waste of time,” he said.

“This is,” the voice continued. “Space: The Infinite Playground. I’m your host, Jean-Luc Picard. This stellar simulation has been brought to you by a grant from the Hegemnon Foundation, the Ferengi Alliance, and the Smithsonian-Grendlebrax Institute.”

“Ugh, so fake,” Baxter sighed. “Picard Picard Picard. I don’t get the obsession with him. I thought nobody liked him anymore. Make up your mind, Federation!” he shouted at the screen.

“Shhh,” an adolescent girl, apparently there in the amphitheater with her class, said, putting her finger to your lips. “Can you be quiet? We have to write an essay on this later.”

“I’m a walking essay,” Baxter half-whispered back, through clenched teeth. “I’ve been to just as many star systems as that pompus idiot! I’m a Starfleet Admiral for gosh sakes!”

“Sir,” an older man said, leaning forward and touching Baxter’s shoulder. “I don’t know who you are, but will you stop threatening Willamina?”

“Willamina,” Baxter sighed. “Wow, your parents hated you.”

She folded her arms. “At least mine taught me manners, doofus!”

“Takes one to know one!” Baxter shot back.

At that moment, a suited officer approached, gently leaning down. “Admiral, I spoke to my supervisor. It appears you’ve been warned that if you cannot keep your voice down in here, you won’t be allowed to return to the stellar simulator.”

Baxter shoved out of his seat. “I’m going. I’m going.”

“Work on your attitude, bald head!” the girl called after him.

“Picard is bald too!” Baxter said, as the officer gently took his hand and led him out of the amphitheater.

Baxter chewed his lip thoughtfully as he made his way out of the crowded Air, Space, and Subspace Museum and onto the capitol mall. He politely refused a Ferengi who was selling tours of the White House, a charming, if overpriced, restaurant that had once held the seat of one of Earth’s national governments.

With a soft breath, and a final glance at the museum and all its galactic beauty, Baxter pinched the communicator stub in the sleeve of his tunic. “Baxter to Lieutenant Kurg. Please beam me back to the office. Also, contact Kelly and Janice and find out if they’re free for lunch.”

The day didn’t have to be a total waste.

Admiral Baxter was hard to figure out, thought Lt. Eric Kurg as he stood at the door to the admiral’s private office. The other adjutants at the Harry Kim Auxiliary Starfleet Office Building didn’t seem to be having such a hard time connecting with their superiors. Kurg came from a proud heritage: his mother was a warlord in the Ketha province of Kronos, and his father was a prominent cellist from the equally challenging Minnesota region of North America. Both came from hearty stock. Working people who made good. They were concerned about Kurg. He hadn’t commed home as often since this new posting. He’d wanted a starship, but his command skills had been lacking and his piloting wasn’t very sharp. But he was intelligent and organized, so, here he was. Standing at the Admiral’s door.

He tapped the comm.

“Yes,” a voice called.

“I’ve got a communique for you. Noted as high priority.”

“C’mon in.”

The doors parted and Kurg walked in.

“Admiral Baxter,” Kurg said.

“Eric,” Baxter said, leaning up from the sofa and wiping potato chip crumbs off his uniform slacks. A Space Cowboys game was playing on the holo platform positioned on the opposite wall. “Computer. Mute audio. This better be important, son.”

“Incoming comm from Janice Browning.”

“On screen.”

“You’ve got holo controls right there on the chair arm, Admiral,” Kurg pointed out.

“So I do,” Baxter said. “Well, let’s have it then,” he said, and punched a control. The holo image shifted from the Space Cowboys player going in for a tackle to the image of Janice Browning, standing in her kitchen, surrounded by pots, pans, and a few yelling waiters.

“Andy, hey, sorry to do this but…can we make it a tea instead of lunch? I’m kind of slammed here. Kelly said it would be fine for her.”

Baxter stiffened and stood. “I don’t know, Janice. I’ll have to move a few things around…”

“Well, hope it works out. It’s been months! You’d think we weren’t even on the same planet.”

Baxter looked at Kurg. “Well?”

“You have no meetings today.”

Baxter glared. “You’re sure? You checked all the calendars?”

“You only have one calendar. There’s nothing on it. There is that one woman who keeps trying to book a meeting with you, but you keep putting her off…”

Baxter sighed. “Well, my assistant here tells me I’m open.”

“Great, let’s talk then!” Browning said, and her holo image winked off.

Kurg pursed his lips even more. “I take it you wanted me to lie and say you were very busy.”

“It would have been nice. I don’t want Janice to think that I’m sitting here with nothing to do.”

“I will take that under advisement; however, I should inform you that I won’t dishonor myself in order to please you.”

“Well, nobody wants that,” Baxter said. “Hey, lighten up, man. I’m just asking a favor.” He slung an arm around Kurg’s shoulders and led him to the door. “You’re doing great. I mean it.”

“You are about to send me out for more grapefruit juice.”

“You know I am,” Baxter said.

“Do you have any other projects for me?” Kurg asked.

Baxter winked. “As soon as I have one, you’ll be the first to know.”

Kurg looked over at Baxter’s desk. “I could clean up those padds you have laying there.”

“They’re all important. Dossiers. Technical schematics. Ship stuff.”

“You know you can consolidate all of them into one iPadd now. Much more efficient, lighter. Holographic capability and multispectral sensors.”

“Don’t try to sell me on the new technology. I know what I like, Eric,” Baxter said, leading Kurg to the door. “I think you should just focus on finding the freshest grapefruit juice that Guinan’s Grocery has to offer.”

“You have a replicator.”

“Yes, I know. Where do you think I’m getting the rum from?”

“So it’ll be another one of those days then.”

“No. That’s for tonight. I don’t drink on duty. What kind of fool do you think I am?”

“Should I answer that honestly, sir?”

Baxter padded Kurg on the back. “Probably not. I’ll see you later.”

Just then, the comm in the outside office sprang to life. Kurg walked over and checked it. “Sir, it’s Chris Richards for you.”

“Wow, the comm will not stop ringing today.” Baxter shook his head. “Mondays, right?”

“It’s Wednesday.”

“Run along now.”

Baxter watched Kurg go and let the doors closed, then reached over to his panel and punched a control. A holographic version of Chris Richards sprang to life in front of him.

“Andy,” Chris said. “Great to see you. Do I have news for you!”

“You finished that script for the show about a Dominion high school!” he said.

“No, Fun Times at Weyoun High got rejected. No, this is something else entirely. My little side project finally got green lit. Remember? The Klingon fun planet?”

“Rura Partay?” Baxter asked. “They’re actually leasing you their moon?”

“They haven’t done anything with it for decades. It’s a lump of rock. The perfect place for a getaway resort.”

“In Klingon space.”

“First of its kind!”

Baxter nodded. “You really want to get in business with the Klingons again?”

“Yeah, I’ve got to get out of the holovision industry. The people are so…boring and self-interested.”

“You surrounded yourself with boring and self-interested people on the Explorer.”

“They were different.” Richards shrugged. “I liked them.”

“So, Rura Partay,” Baxter said. “Well, that’s great.”

“We launch in six months. You’ll be getting an invite soon.”

Baxter retreated behind his desk, flipping through a stack of padds idly. “Well, you know, work has been crazy. So…many…padds…maybe Kelly can go.”

“She actually RSVPed already,” Richards said.


Richards’ hologram shifted awkwardly and looked at Baxter for a moment. “Andy, are you…”

Baxter clapped his hands. “Chris, I’d love to chat but I have to be going…”

“Sure, sure. Well, I hope you can make it to our grand opening.”

“I’m probably going to be really booked…”

“It’s six months out and you don’t even know the date yet.”

Baxter sighed. “I’ll talk with Eric when he gets back and see if I can rearrange my schedule.”

Richards nodded. “Okay, well…I’d better go. Trying to reassign my last few projects at the Federation Opticasting Organization. Hey, do you think a series about a super hero who is really good at removing villains’ disguises would be good? I’m thinking of calling him the ‘De-sguiser!’”


“Got to go.”

And with that, Richards disappeared.

The Tea Type Star was bustling on this particular Wednesday. Baxter liked the wood paneled walls, the smooth music. Very calming. Earth was a booming paradise - it really had everything. One wondered why you’d want to venture off for anything when Earth boasted one of the greatest societies in the galaxy. He was thinking this as he sat across the table from Janice Browning as she sipped her tea and pointed at him with her teacup.

“…and then I had two waiters quit. And on top of that, one of my chefs! Do you know how hard it is to find someone actually willing to cook real food nowadays? It’s a very specialized art. The only guy who seems to appreciate my work is that Ferengi admiral who always comes in asking for tube grubs.”

“People have gotten way too attached to replicators,” Baxter said, sipping his lavender Earl Grey.

“So, I heard you talked to Chris?”

“Does everyone talk behind my back?”

Browning grinned. “Almost exclusively. He said you might not be able to make it to the opening of Rura Partay.”

“You’re going?”

“Well, I was hoping I could catch a ride with you. I don’t have access to a starship.”

“I don’t have the access I once did,” Baxter said gruffly, and sipped his tea. “Wonder where Kelly is?”

“She’s wrapping up a segment for this evening’s report,” Browning said. “She should be here any minute.”

Baxter blew steam from his cup of tea. “Good. That’s good.” He looked around at the bustle of the crowd and listened to the hushed tones of the patrons. “I think she’s going to be able to make it to Chris’ thing.”

“We should all go,” Browning said, and leaned forward. “You should get off Earth. It would be good for you.”

“I don’t see why. I can watch the simulcast on holovision.”

“But this is a big day for Chris.”

Baxter shifted in his seat. “I know.”

Browning sighed and leaned forward, taking Baxter’s hands in hers. “Andy, you’re going to have to take the leap sooner or later. You’ve been on Earth what…four straight years?’

“Almost five,” Baxter said. “But it’s not like I’m counting.”

Browning gave him a patient smile. “I know it’s scary out there. And I know what you faced. Remember? I was there.”

“You tried to save me,” Baxter admitted.

“And you’re still here,” Browning gave a soft chuckle. “No thanks to me.”

Baxter looked up as the door to the quaint tea spot flew open and Kelly Peterman rushed in, flanked by people snapping holopics and asking her questions as she swept through, two Yorkshire terriers in tow, tugging at their leashes. She patiently signed a few autographs and blew everyone kisses. “Hey you guys, sorry I am late!” she said as she approached the table and sat down with a sigh. “What a crazy day.”

Baxter sipped his tea. “Yeah, I know. Wednesdays, right?”

Peterman smiled and called out to the server. “I’ll have a chamomile tea and an ikoberry tort.”

She sat down and looked from Browning to Baxter. “Well, this is really nice.”

“Nice,” Browning said. She looked at Baxter. “So?”

“So are you seeing that therapist I told you about?” Peterman asked.

Baxter blinked. “Wow, we went there fast.”

“I’m worried about you. So is Janice. So is Chris.”

Browning tapped Peterman on the elbow. “I thought we talked about going in easy.”

“Going in easy hasn’t worked, Janice,” Peterman said. “Sometimes you have to cut to the chase with him.”

“Is that what they taught you in the news business?” Baxter harrumphed, folding his arms.

“Look, Andy, I’m worried about you. We all are.”

“Is Admiral Conway worried about me too?”

Browning and Peterman exchanged glances. “I doubt it,” Peterman admitted. “But since when did you care what that guy thought?”

“An Andorian counselor,” Baxter said, and folded his arms. “Sounds like fun, really. But I don’t know if I have time.”

“Liar,” Browning said. “Eric showed me your schedule. You do almost nothing all day. Your desk assignment is a joke. Three ships!”

Peterman pushed back from the table. “Whoa, Janice, I thought we were going in easy!”

“The Courier Project is very important,” Baxter said with a snort. “We ferry admirals to important assignments. Diplomatic envoys. Fact finding missions.”

“Please,” Browning muttered, waving her hands at Baxter. “You let them take the Explorer project from you. And if you had that project back, you’d have a reason to get off your butt and get off planet!”

By the end of that sentence, Browning was fairly screaming, and as she started to notice the customers looking at her, she blushed, and pursed her lips. “Look, Andy…”

“Janice means well,” Peterman said, turning to Baxter and putting her hand on his shoulder. “We know you’re still…grieving.”

“The service was three months ago,” Baxter said quietly.

“And that’s not much time at all,” Browning said. Her eyes welled up. “It’s no wonder you’re…feeling low.”

“I’m feeling fine!” Baxter snapped. “I’m living the life I want to live.”

“I’ve known you for almost thirty years, Andy,” Peterman said. “For a good portion of that, I was your wife. And I know this isn’t the life you want to live. The Andy Baxter I was married to wouldn’t spend his days wasting away on Earth when there is a galaxy out there to explore.”

“Well, you’re not married to him anymore,” Baxter said, and shoved away from the table. “Thanks though, everyone, for the kind thoughts. Tell Chris I said hi, and give him my regrets.”

He pivoted and headed for the exit.

A young woman in her late teens rushed up to him. “Hey, is that Kelly Peterman over there? Is she doing a special news report from the tea shop?’

“I think she’s just trying to enjoy a beverage,” Baxter said. “But you can ask.”

“What’s she like? Is she as cool as she is on holo?”

“Cooler,” Baxter said, giving a warm smile over his shoulder, and he ducked out of the tea shop, heading back to Starfleet Command.

“You’ve got three messages,” Eric said, as Baxter slumped past his work station. “What order would you like them in?”

“How about you just keep them and call them back and tell them whatever they want to hear?” Baxter said.

Kurg got up from his seat and faced Baxter. “Do you wish to fight me?”

Baxter turned. “What?”

“Your tone suggests you want to fight. And while it’s not the most professional thing, to be honest, I’m all for it.”

Baxter sighed. “No. No I don’t want to fight you. I just want…I want to be left alone.”

Lt. Kurg stared at him. “Well, I have good news. All three messages are from the same person.”

“Egads, not her again,” Baxter sighed. “Arwen Spleen?”

“Airyn,” Kurg said. “Airyn Satine.”

Baxter ran a hand through the remaining scraps of his hair. “This woman who keeps trying to meet with me. The El Aurian.”

“The same. She says it’s about your father.”

“Oh, I’m sure it is,” Baxter snapped. “I’ve heard that one before.”

‘What should I tell her?”

“Tell her whatever you want. I’m not meeting with her.”

Baxter marched into his office and plopped behind his desk, staring at the padds that lay spread out before him. The Majestic was taking a diplomatic corps to Bajor. The Tempest was carrying a delegation of Federation council members to a conference on Trill, and the Maverick was returning from assignment at Galornden Core after negotiations with the Romulan Free Statebroke down. Again.

Three ships under his command. The Majestic and the Tempest were Olympic-class light duty cruisers, and the Maverick was an old Nova-class refit. None of them needed any input from him to carry out their duties. If anything, he would just get in the way. So he sat, in this cramped office, at Starfleet Command.

He pushed a few of the padds around, pushing past to find the little square piece of blue plastic that was poking out from beneath them. He picked it up and stared at it, blowing his breath out of his nose. Finally, he stood up.

“Eric, I’m going to be gone for the afternoon. Close up if I’m not back by seventeen hundred.”

“It’s my honor to serve,” Eric said, watching him leave with raised eyebrow.


The Admiral thumbed the plastic square as he walked down the cobbled street and found the office building. It had been a quick beam-out from San Francisco to Boston. He’d commed ahead, and sure enough, this Andorian counselor had been able to fit him in.

Baxter breathed heavy as he made the trek up the three flights of stairs in the old office building. He found a waiting area with no assistant, and only one office door, which was cracked open.

“Get in here, if you want help,” a female voice bellowed from within.

Baxter poked his head through the door. “Doctor…Dramah?”

The stout Andorian woman with streaks of purple through her white bowl of hair chortled dryly and pushed back from her desk, rising to meet him. “Kelly Peterman has told me much about you. You are a weak and sad man.”

“Well, sounds like you’ve already been briefed,” Baxter said, and then gasped as he looked around the room. Dead animals adorned the wall: Frenalian hawk, Earth deer, Vulcan sehlat, and a particularly large head of Klingon targ.

“Targ,” Baxter said. Well, isn’t that fitting.


Baxter sat down on the couch opposite Dramah’s desk. “Nothing. So, look, I don’t even know why I am here.”

Dramah got up and sat on her desk, reaching over to pull an Andorian ch’thix blade from a drawer, which she used to pick at her fingernails. “Sounds like that’s part of the problem.”

“Has Kelly ever been in here?”

“She hasn’t. Why?”

“I suspect she’d…object to the decor.”

“I will have to have her over for some Andorian bile tea and entrail muffins. I would like to see her reaction.”

Baxter blinked. “You would?”

“Kelly Peterman is an insufferable human. She is sad and weak. I would like to see her disappointed, disgusted, disgraced.”

“I’m getting a theme here.”

“My time is valuable. I have many clients. Do you want to proceed with this therapy, or are you too scared to continue?”

Baxter twiddled his thumbs and looked up at her. “You have…many clients?”

“Many. So now, what is it you want from me? I don’t have all fwarking day.”

Baxter steepled his fingers as he watched Dramah pick at her fingernails with the ch’thix. “I want people to leave me alone. Why is everyone always trying to get me to leave the planet?”

“Because humans, like many of us, are a warp capable species. Why would you not leave the planet?”

“I have everything I want right here.”

Her antennae flexed briefly. “Ah, so you’re happy here.”

“Oh, hell no. I just mean…I’m…”

Dramah leaned forward. “You are content.”

“No, not at all. I’m just…”


“Yes!” Baxter brightened and stuck a finger in the air. “Complacent! I’m complacent! Why is that such a bad thing?”

“Because if you stop spinning around with the Earth, it will invariably stop spinning around with you.”

“And what does that mean?”

“As a wise Andorian once said, life comes at you fast. Watch out!” And Dramah hurled her blade at Baxter, which zinged by his face, just barely nicking his ear.

“Ouch! If you were trying to avoid hitting me, you failed!” Baxter said, standing up and looking behind him at the ch’thix, which was now buried in the opposite wall.

“I hit exactly what I aimed for,” Dramah said. “First blood has been drawn! Counseling can begin!”

Dramah leaped off the desk and tackled Baxter to the floor. The more he struggled the more strongly the Andorian woman tightened her grip.

“Get off of me!” he demanded.

“Admit your weakness! You are a fool! Sad and weak!” Dramah shouted.

What was Peterman thinking sending him to this crackpot. Was this her idea of a joke?

“STOP IT!” Baxter shouted, driving a knee into Dramah’s stomach and rolling her off him. “C’mon!”

“You are stronger than you look,” Dramah said, rolling onto her knees. “Barely. But I am glad to see some fight left in you. That’s encouraging. It means you won’t necessarily be consigned to a life of misery.”

“Thanks for the pep talk,” Baxter said, dusting his pants off and falling back onto the couch. “So that’s Andorian counseling technique?”

“Strictly speaking, I was trained as an interrogator,” Dramah said, returning to sit on her desk. “But the Federation didn’t need any of those, and since the Andorian Guard wouldn’t have me, I had few choices and had to rethink my career path.”

“All seems logical to me,” Baxter said. “But did you give any thought to demolitions or…wrestling?” he rubbed his ribcage and winced. Something inside him might be broken.

“I’m content to wrestle with people’s inner feelings. Humans are laughably simplistic. Driven by basic appetites, fears, and insecurities.”

Baxter winced and rubbed his shoulder. “That so? Well, tell me more. What’s wrong with me?”

“From what I have gathered, what’s wrong is that you’re not leaving the planet.”

“Why does everyone care about that?” Baxter asked. “Whose business is it if I leave the planet or not?”

“You’re afraid, like most humans. But your fear is paralyzing you. You should do something about that.”

“Why I’m here,” Baxter muttered, and leaned forward on his knees. “Look, I almost died four years ago, okay? I was involved in a…small explosion…in the Bermuda Expanse. And I almost died. Okay, that’s not altogether accurate. I did die.”

Dramah grabbed a padd and began tapping on it. “Died, you say? Now this is getting interesting. Tell me more about this death.”

“Well, to make a long story short, an omnipotent being by the name of Mirk was able to restore me to life. I actually came back from the dead.”

Dramah nodded. “Wow. That’s pretty messed up.”

“So that’s what you’re up against. It’s not your garden variety anxiety. I actually did die.”

“And now you can’t leave the planet.”


“Because what killed you was off-planet. So by staying put here, you minimize the risk.”

“Well, if you want to take all the nuance out of it and just boil it down to…”

Dramah reached behind her and flung another ch’thix at Baxter, who ducked just in time for it to sail over his head and graze his forehead.

“Stop!” Baxter said. “Would you stop throwing knives at me?”

“What kind of therapist would I be if I didn’t throw a few knives at you?” Dramah asked. “Look, I want to help you, but this seems like a pretty open and shut case of you finding what little human courage you have and taking a trip off the planet.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“Then you languish and rot here until you die. Don’t you want to die on your feet, in battle?”

“I have a friend who would absolutely love you,” Baxter muttered. He stared at the ceiling.


“She had a thing with honorable death.”

“Most Andorians do.”

“So did my Dad.”

“Oh, here comes the Daddy issues,” Dramah said, and slapped her thigh. “Let’s hear them.”

Baxter glowered up at her. “My father died three months ago. How about a little freaking compassion!”

Dramah stared a hole into Baxter’s soul, shifting forward on the desk, planting her feet on either side of him, and taking his face into her hand. “Tell me about this brave man. This father of yours. Tell me - did he die well?”

Baxter nodded, his eyes welling. He bit his lip. “He died on his feet. Ac-actually, you’d appreciate this, I guess, given…” he stared up at the Targ carcass on the wall.”He died targ hunting on Kronos. With Chancellor Martok.”

“Name dropping will get you nowhere.” Dramah leaned back and rubbed her chin.”They were up at pak’taR hill, chasing a large pack of wild targ, and they got cornered. Hemmed in. Dad took refuge on top of a boulder and Martok fell down into a wallow.”

“The hunters became the prey.”

“Uh, yeah. And, to hear it from Martok, well, he lost his footing and was trampled by one targ, and the other was about to tear his face off. And my Dad, he…he leapt from his safe spot on the boulder and rained down blows on the targ from above. He wrestled one targ off Martok, then took on the other and…and gave him time to escape.” Baxter swallowed.

Dramah was leaning forward, her elbows on her knees. Her eyes were wide, focused, antennae erect. “Yes, yes…”

“Martok went to get his bat’leth, with every intention of circling back to save my Dad but…but…” Baxter waffled. “It was too late. They had him, and Martok knew it. Martok watched while…”

Dramah nodded. “Yes. Describe it.”

Baxter stood up. “What? Fuck, no!”

Dramah casually leaned back on her desk, then swung around and hopped into her high backed metal chair. “I am impressed. Not by you, certainly, but by your father.”

“Well, doesn’t that make everything all better,” Baxter sniffed, and wiped his eyes.

“The Klingons must have been impressed. His sacrifice was worthy of song and story.”

“Martok’s supposedly working on something but it’s a little…heavy metal for my tastes,” Baxter admitted. “But diplomatic relations with he Klingons haven’t been really good. My Dad was one of the few people from the Federation that Martok would actually speak with. He was hoping his friendship with Martok might do something to help.”

Dramah leaned forward, rapping her leather-clad fingers on the ornately carved, wooden desk. “You can gain strength from this pain, Baxter. Let it in, let it make you stronger. Do notrun from it.”

“I’m not running from anything. If anything, people are running from me. Like my wife.”

Dramah scoffed. “You just ruined the moment. Wife left you. Pedantic nonsense!”

Baxter took a moment to recalibrate. Even though the experience so far felt excruciating,talking to her somehow made him feel better. “It wasn’t really…she didn’t really leave me. It was a mutual thing it was just…you know how sometimes you’re with someone so long, you just can’t imagine being without her. Then suddenly, you can, and it seems like it’ll be okay?”

“I’ve steered clear of romantic entanglements. They are physically and emotionally taxing.” Okay, so maybe she wasn’t that much like J’hana, Baxter thought.

“That’s true. It’s just…Stef went into Starfleet Academy. I stayed in Starfleet. Kelly became a civilian…Raymond got into the diplomatic corps. Raymond spent a lot more time with his mother, and Stef with me…Kelly’s career took off and she had less time to spend at the house and I guess we lost grip of the thing…” He was speaking fast now. “And then, one day, we just decided to formalize the arrangement.” He made a breaking motion with his fists. “Just part ways.”

“Touching, really,” Dramah said. “It would explain why Peterman sent you to me. A final act of revenge. She is insidious.”

“We’re still friends. Things are…a little strange. But we talk often. Maybe even more often than when we were married, oddly.”

Dramah considered everything for a moment, tapped some notes on her iPadd, then looked back up at Baxter. “Is that all that’s wrong with you?”

“Well, things are bad at work. My project was taken over by someone I kind of hate.”

Dramah looked down at her iPadd. “Hold on, I need to look up how to spell ‘cliche,” Dramah said. “The human alphabet is annoying.”

“My work’s not satisfying. My Dad died. And my marriage is over. Isn’t that enough?”

“You also died. Don’t forget that - you also died.”

“I died. And my favorite starship blew up. Actually,” Baxter gave a little laugh. “That’s how I died.”

“Delicious,” Dramah said. “It strikes me as interesting, then, that of all your problems, the fact that you actually died seems to be taking a back seat to this other nonsense.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say that.”

“I would.” Dramah folded her arms. “Well.”

Baxter raised an eyebrow. “Well?”


Baxter turned around, as if he expected to see a line of patients behind him. “Goodbye?”

“Yes, I think I have all I need.”

“Wait, what about me?”

Dramah glared at him and walked over, gripping him by his arms and easily lifting him off his feet. “Typical human response. ‘What about me’? What about you? Your choices continue to be your own. My sessions are thirty minutes each. Try to be prompt next time. And don’t be a sh’zatt - no more last-minute appointments, all right?”

“Can you leave me with any…suggestions?”

“I just did,” Dramah said. “I’ll send you a bill. I get paid in latinum. Starfleet insurance doesn’t cover it.” She brought Baxter outside of her suite and to the top of the stairs. “Good day, sir.”


“I said good day, sir!” Dramah bellowed, and tossed Baxter unceremoniously down the stairs.

All in all, he felt a little better.

Baxter limped back to his office to find Eric was gone. He’d taken the opportunity to leave early, but Baxter couldn’t blame him for that. He would leave early too, if he considered any of this work. But it had been a long time since his days were filled with work.

He grabbed an iPadd off Eric’s desk and scrolled through, seeing an update from Captain Madera of the Maverick and not much else. He ducked into his office.

And came face to face with a short-statured woman with flowing black hair, deep set dark eyes, and a snug blue jump suit with matching scarf. She smiled, bright-eyed, and plopped into the chair behind his desk.

“Admiral Baxter, you are one hard man to track down,” she said. “You ready to listen to me?”

“Pardon?” Baxter looked at his iPadd, then at her, and frowned. “You’re Aragorn aren’t you?”

“Airyn. Airyn Satine. You should be able to remember my name. I’ve called you like ten times.”

“Eric usually does a good job of screening those.” Baxter plopped into the chair opposite his desk and gave Airyn a non-commital stare. “Wait, how did you get in here? You’d have to outwit like thirty security systems…”

“Eric let me in and said I could wait here.”

“I’ve got to have a talk with that young man,” Baxter said, and looked off into the distance. He returned his gaze to his visitor. “Look, Ms. Satine. You’re wasting your time. There’s nothing I can do to help you. I can’t contribute to your research project, or whatever you’re doing.”

Airyn shook her head. “You’ve got it all wrong, Admiral. I’m not looking for you to help with my research project. The research project is done. And your father helped complete it. And right this minute, forces from across the quadrant are trying to get their hands on it. And as his son, Admiral, you might just hold the key to unlocking that research. So now, do I have your attention? Will you listen to me?”

“You’re an El Aurian. I thought you were a race of listeners.”

Airyn shrugged. “Eh.”

Baxter often took his meals at home. And by took his meals, that meant he shoved a pizza in his mouth while watching holovision.

But when he did dine out, or just stop out for a drink, he liked to go to Scotty’s Bar, adjacent to the Starfleet Command campus. There was a back booth, not that different from the little corner booth he favored on the Explorer, in the Constellation Club.

He took Airyn Satine there, and they ordered a glass of wine for her, and a rum and grapefruit for him.

He took the grapefruit rind and twisted it, watching drops of juice drip into the glass and looking up at Airyn. The bartender brought them some Denebian blood pretzels, and Baxter grabbed a handful and began munching on them.

“All right, I’m listening,” he said.

Airyn Satine sipped her wine. “Terran wine is delightful,” she said, licking her lips and looking at Baxter. “You’re a hard man to track down, sir.”

“You said that,” Baxter said. “So tell me about my Dad’s research.”

“I won’t waste your time telling you things you already know,” Airyn said. “You already know your Dad was stationed at Zendab Five, while serving aboard the Starship Mercury.”


“You also know that he worked secretly with a scientist, who, by all accounts, seemed to be a total lunatic, name of…”

“Maura Drake,” Baxter said. “I can’t forget that name. Keep going.” He sipped his drink and stared at this woman over it, wondering when she would get to the point.

“Well, Maura Drake had a recipe for human omnipotence, as I gather, and as you know, that was somewhat controversial at the time.”

“Still is, I’d imagine.”

“And here’s where we find ourselves in our story. You see, that recipe, that genetic code, buried in Maura Drake, and for a time, in your sister, Anna. There’s a copy out there. And your Father is the only person who knows where it is.”

Baxter downed the rest of his drink, his eyes never leaving the El Aurian.

“What line of work did you say you were in?”

“I didn’t. I’m an historian.”

“AN historian, huh.”

“That is proper usage,” she grinned. “So here we are. Your father has the key to the missing genome, so I guess that means you do, too.”

“My father’s…gone.”

“I know,” Airyn said. “Sorry about that. But you’re not dead, right?”

Baxter gritted his teeth. “Not at the moment, no.”

“Good, then you’re of some use to me. You have access to a raceabout?”

“For what?”

“To go to Kronos, of course.”

Baxter shook his head. “And why on Earth do you think I’d go to Kronos?”

“To talk to Martok. He was there when your Father died. He would know if…well, you’ve heard the rumor right?”

Baxter folded his arms on top of the table and shoved another pretzel in his mouth. “Let’s pretend I haven’t heard the rumor.”

“Your Father’s last words were a clue. Whatever he said to Martok just before he diedwas a message meant for you. Meant for you to find and secure this genome so that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.” Airyn wrinkled her nose. “Cool, huh?”

Baxter dug his fingers into the lacquered tabletop. “None of this is cool.”

“Look, I’m sorry about your father. But let’s make sure he didn’t die for nothing, is all I’m saying. He wants you to know where that genome is. You’re the only one who can get to it before…well, almost anyone else gets to it and does who knows what with it. You want to see what a bunch of omnipotent Romulans looks like?”

“Point of fact, no I don’t,” Baxter said. “But let’s just say for a moment you’re right. If my Dad gave Martok a message, why wouldn’t he just comm me and tell me what it is?”

“From what I’ve heard, Martok will only give you the message. And will only give it to you in person.”

“Well, there’s an easy way to get to the bottom of this.” Baxter dusted the pretzel crumbs off his hands and shoved out of the booth. Airyn followed.

“The son of the hero of pak’taR Hill!” the Klingon on the screen, who’s name was Kindar announced, and chortled. “Admiral Baxter, it is an honor to speak with you.”

“Kindar,” Baxter said, as Airyn loomed behind him. “Back off, okay, let me do this,” he whispered, and pushed Airyn back a bit. “Kindar, it does me great honor to speak with you, the…”

“Senior Adjutant to General Martok, retired, of Ketha Province, leader emeritus and man about planet.”

“That’s…that’s special,” Baxter said. “I’d like to speak to Martok, please.”

“I’m afraid that will not be possible.”

“Even for the son of the hero of pak’taR Hill?”

Airyn tapped Baxter on the shoulder. “Tell him about the words. The last words!” she said through clenched teeth.

Baxter pushed Airyn back and turned to the screen. “Kindar, I’m researching the circumstances of Harlan Baxter’s untimely demise. It would help me to know some details surrounding the accident.”

“We’ve sent all that information to Starfleet Command.”

“I’ve read the reports,” Baxter said, and leaned in. “But I know there’s something that you all left out of the reports. My father’s last words.”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

“You don’t? Maybe Martok does.”

“He might, but he wouldn’t discuss it with me.”

Baxter glared at Airyn, then turned back to Kindar. “Kindar, my friend, could you put me through to Martok so we could just establish once and for all if my Dad did have any last words, and if so, what they were?”

“I’m afraid that’s quite impossible. Martok is not available to speak to you, and even if he was, he would not speak about that over subspace. Or to anyone else but the son of the hero of pak’taR Hill.”

“So I have to go there, to Kronos.”

“That is your choice.”

“But you can’t even guarantee I can see Martok when I get there.”


“And you can’t even guarantee that, even if Martok meets with me, that he can tell me what Dad’s last words were.”

“You may try.”

Baxter felt Airyn nudging him from behind and groaned. “Look. Kindar. I’m…a very busy man. I have many appointments. It’s…inconvenient to get to Kronos. And…you know that we’re in a bit of a cold war right now.”

“That on-again, off-again thing,” Kindar said. “Yes, relations between our people are rather cool. Though your Father’s brave sacrifice did much to bridge that gap.”

“I know they’ve been friends for a while. Which is why I think, if you ask, Martok will probably want to speak with me.”

Kindar looked suddenly a bit fearful. He glanced over his shoulder. “He’s standing right behind me. And he’s telling me in no uncertain terms that he will not speak with you. If you want an audience with Martok, you’ll need to come here.” And with that, Kindar disappeared from the screen.

“I could have saved you some time,” Airyn said, flopping into the chair opposite Baxter’s desk. “I knew that would go that way. Klingons are so predictable!”

“You’re…quickly getting on my nerves.”

“People get used to me eventually.”

Baxter took Airyn by the hand and led her out of his office and to the door of his suite. “Thanks for stopping by. We’ve had our meeting. Good luck with your project…”

“You’re not curious?” Airyn asked. “Just a little?”

“I’ve got…a full plate right now, Ms. Satine,” Baxter said, and gently pushed Airyn out of his suite, turning around and heading back into his office.

He would be there until almost dawn.

Baxter scrolled through sector reports, glassy-eyed. It was oh-five hundred. His body fitfully resisted - it wasn’t used to this sort of treatment. He usually went in around ten hundred and headed home around sixteen hundred. Admirals could pretty much do what they wanted.

But he couldn’t go home. Didn’t want to. The conversation with Dramah haunted him. Plenty of Andorians had called him a coward before. Also non-Andorians. But none with a degree in counseling. And between that and his conversation with Airyn Satine, the day had been a constant reminder of what he’d lost in the last few months. Few years, maybe.

Why had he stopped going to space?

It was four years ago - the Explorer-A returned from its trip to the Bermuda Expanse to return Baxter, Peterman, and Browning to Earth. Chris had returned to his holovision gig. Tilleran to Betazed. And J’hana had returned to society as a free-agent security officer.

At that point, Larkin had just taken command of the Explorer-A. She was still on her shakedown cruise. Baxter had been impressed with the new ship. Delighted to see it in action. But that feeling was fleeting, as he reflected on what had been lost.

The Explorer had exploded.

The original, the site of some of the best memories of his life, just like that, blammo, had disappeared in a beautiful display of light and fire. In space. With him watching. While floating in space. Aimless, helpless.

For a time, he had thought he’d spend the rest of his life - or eternity, or whatever - in idle conversation with Mirk and Hartley, his previous crewmates-turned-godlike. In some sort of middle space between life and death, between corporeal reality and infinity.

But Mirk, in one last act of family, perhaps, had granted Baxter his life back. And just like that, he emerged from a torpedo tube, confused and disheveled, with only a passing memory of what that brief intermezzo had been like.

He tried to talk to Kelly. And she listened. He talked to his Father. He told him to move on. He talked to Janice and Chris. They told him to relax, and take his time getting back to normal. He even talked to Conway, who mostly laughed at him.

He sat at his desk. Continued his work. And little by little, the weeks went by. At first he just made excuses. He had a busy schedule. Other duties to attend to. The Explorer Project launched a new ship, the Rogue, and he didn’t even go to see it launched. People gave him a wide berth, at first, but then his friends started asking questions. He evaded. They retreated. All of them keeping a respectful distance. Even, finally, Kelly.

Having Stef at Starfleet academy helped. They visited often, talked frequently. He and Kelly were already split up by the time they attended her graduation six months later.

Now with Stef gone, he’d retreated even more, and even he couldn’t explain it to anyone. He just didn’t want to leave. Couldn’t face the vacuum of space that had once received him so cooly, and had been filled with the lights of the Explorer’s explosion.

He’d drifted off a bit, with these thoughts spinning through his head, and was stirred awake as his comm channel barked at him.

He reached up and thumbed a control, and a hologram of Lucille Baxter appeared in front of him, hands on hips

“Booty-butt,” she said, with an annoyed grimace. “Surprised I caught you at the office.”

Baxter shoved some padds around on his desk. “Paperwork. What’s going on? How are things on Rava Four?”

“I got an odd call from the Klingon attache. Why are you trying to get an audience with Martok?”

“I had some…questions for him,” Baxter said. “It was nothing.”

“It’s not nothing. You’re thinking about your father.” She draped her arms behind her back.

“Aren’t you?”

“I have a colony to run.”

Baxter scrubbed a hand through what was left of his hair. “You were retired four months ago, and now you have a colony to run. The Baxters love to bury themselves in their work.”

“Look, perhaps you have the luxury of ignoring your responsibilities. I can’t.”

“Your colonists are rebelling against you, aren’t they? Four months and they’ve already mounted an insurrection?”

“They’re not rebelling.” Lucille stiffened. “Well, maybe they are. A little bit.”

“You cut off the supply lines to the protesters, didn’t you?”

“They don’t like my import/export policies, they can live on another colony!”

“Mom, you’re grieving just like I am. We deal with it different ways. Your way is to deprive colonists of resources, which is not cool!”

Lucille folded her arms. “We’re not talking about me. We’re talking about you.”

“We’re talking about Dad. And who knows what he was up to when he was on the Mercury.”

She rolled her eyes. “Not this old thing again. You dealt with all that. Harlan sealed the records. It’s been over for two decades.”

“He had more to say,” Baxter said. “And Martok knows what.”

“You’re delirious. That El Aurian got to you, didn’t she?”

“Satine? How do you know her?”

“She came to talk to me before she went on to bother you. I sent her packing and told her to leave it alone. Clearly she is not too good at following directions.”

“She thinks that Dad’s last words to Martok are a clue as to where the genome is kept. The genetic secret to omnipotence…”

“You’d better be glad I called you on a secured channel.”

“You’re so thoughtful, Mom.”

Lucille put her hands on her hips. “Do not go looking into this, Andy.”

“I wasn’t gonna,” Baxter said, twiddling his thumbs.

“Well, don’t!”

“Mom, I haven’t left Earth in four years.”

“And it’s just as well,” Lucille said, turning away from him and muttering. “It’s not safe out there.”

“You’re out there.”

“Your mom’s command center is a fortress, sweetie, and she’s a decorated officer with some real battlefield experience. The big bad colonists won’t be coming to get me.”

“Give them some concessions at least. Food and water!”

“They’ve got more than enough food and water in their shuttlecraft!”

Baxter bit his lip. “Mom, what the hell are we arguing about?”

Lucille shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m not being fair to the colonists.”

“You should do some soul searching about that,” Baxter admitted.

Lucille looked at him. “Perhaps. But son, don’t…don’t go to Kronos. Go off world if you want. Vacation on Risa. Do some sight-seeing on Vulcan. Go on a food tasting spree on Andor, if you must. But don’t go to Kronos. Okay? For your mother?”

“Sure,” Baxter said. “I wasn’t planning on it anyway.”

The next morning, his Starfleet mug brimming with a dark roast Baxter was ashamed to say was a Conway blend, Baxter trotted across the campus from his building at Starfleet Command. He hadn’t slept. He had, however, opened all of the old Explorer’s records on the incident with Maura Drake, the Zendab outpost, and Harlan Baxter.

Things had been tied up neatly. His mother was right about that. Twenty years ago,Captain Anna Kimmel had been revealed to be Baxer’s half-sister, containing genetic code within her that would be the final piece of Drake’s research, which Harlan Baxter had helped her with, in secret, some decades prior. And she’d seemingly succeeded, briefly transforming herself into a goddess, but ultimately defeated by Mirk and his mysterious powers - the powers of a strange race called the Directors.

Their Section 31 handler, Roddick, would stop at nothing to capture Anna Kimmel and her genetic code, so Kimmel and Baxter’s acquaintance, Ashley Donovan, also an alum of Thirty-one, went into deep hiding. A year later, Drake re-surfaced again, this time helping Alvin Ficker, well-known (at least to Baxter) as Baxter’s nemesis. And she had almost succeeded in taking over Starfleet Command and converting Starfleet Academy into mindless drones with a brain-altering weapon. But again, Baxter and company had stopped them. While Ficker had been taken to Tantalus, Thirty-one had Drake, and who knew where they took her? The point was, she was never heard from again. Within a few days, Baxter had received a visit from Roddick. They had Drake, and all of the secrets she held. There was no longer a need to pursue Anna Kimmel, so she was called to come out of hiding and soon was reunited with Baxter. From then on, no one spoke again of Drake and her plans, or Harlan’s part in them. All was put to bed, and more or less forgotten. Baxter had rarely even thought of Roddick, Drake, or those strange days.

So why now could he think about nothing else? Had Airyn Satine had that much effect on him?

After dawn, he’d realized he’d needed to get out for a bit and stretch his legs. And randomly found himself walking up the steps into Starfleet Security, and made his way to level three, where all the sector chiefs resided.

“Captain Keefler will see you now,” the young ensign said, and ushered him into the office.

Baxter sipped his steaming coffee and brushed into the office. “Mister Keefler. Nice digs.”

The lean man rubbed a hand through his scraggly hair and leapt from his chair. “Capt…Admiral! It’s great to see you, sir. What brings you here?”

“Nothing. Just small talk. Chit-chat really.” Baxter walked over to where Keefler was standing, by a window that had a grand view of the Golden Gate Bridge. “Kronos is still your territory, right?”

Keefler nodded. “Well, yeah. I keep an eye on the Klingon situation.”

“The border. Is it still relatively…porous?”

“I wouldn’t recommend any trips there, if that’s what you mean. There are a few Klingon militia groups causing problems at the border.”

“So you’d need a starship.”


“What if I only have a raceabout.”

Keefler leaned in closer. “Sir? You’re talking about taking a raceabout to Kronos? Well, if you ask me, I would say that’s a pretty bad idea.”

“I had a feeling you might, Captain.”

“Why would you even want to do such a thing?” Keefler’s eyebrows shot up as he started to put it together. “Does this have something to do with your Dad?”

“Hm? No. Just asking. Look, do me a favor…I was never here, okay?”

“S-sure,” Keefler said, as Baxter patted him on the shoulder, and turned and walked out of the office.

Once he was gone, Keefler straightened his tunic, sat back, and waved a hand over the holographic control on his desk. “Hadley, get me Starfleet Intelligence, please.”

Back to the office, and to the furrowed brow of Eric, who seemed increasingly judgmental about his movements. Baxter ducked into his office, bypassed Eric, acknowledging him long enough to pick up five more messages from Airyn Satine. She was persistent, he’d give her that.

Baxter waved his hand over the controls at his desk and turned to the hologrid beside him, where Chris Richards suddenly appeared.

“Andy? Hey, man. You change your mind about coming to check out Rura Partay? It’s gonna be a par-tay!”

“Not exactly,” Baxter said. “Hey - if I needed your help getting into Klingon space, could you help me? And keep it off the grid?”

Chris looked around. “Wait, Andy, what are you talking about? I don’t work for the Klingon defense force. I’m a civilian.”

“This connection is secure, Chris. I’m just asking. IF I did want to come to Kronos. Could you help me get safe passage? Could you arrange an escort? You’ve got connections, right?”

Chris gave Andy a blank look, then folded his arms. “Well, yeah. Yeah, I could do it. It won’t necessarily be a fun ride, though. I mean, it’s Kronos, Andy. Even when I worked with the Klingons I didn’t go there. I prefer the rural Klingon planets. Fewer blood feuds.”

“I’m working on something,” Baxter said, “and I need you to keep it quiet, okay…”

“Sure, anything for you, Andy.”

“Good. I’ll be in touch.”

Peterman paced an elliptical orbit around Baxter’s desk, making him somewhat dizzy.

“What are you doing, Andy? This is not what I meant by getting off-planet!”

Browning slumped in his couch. “You realize this is not what we meant by getting off-planet!”

“I’m surrounded. I surrender,” Baxter sighed, leaning back from his desk. He made a mental note to thank Chris for his discretion about the whole thing. He hadn’t waited fifteen minutes before comming Peterman and Browning - perhaps a record.

“What’s gotten into you. Was this that therapist’s idea? I knew that woman had it out for me!”

“Speaking of which, what the hell, Kelly?” Baxter stood up, planting his palms on the desk. “That therapist nearly broke my neck!”

“Which is the least that will happen to you if you take a raceabout into Klingon territory unescorted.”

“Chris is taking care of things.”

“Oh, we talked all about it. Andy, we’re all worried about you.”

Baxter softened. “And I appreciate it. I haven’t even made up my mind.”

Peterman sat on the edge of the desk, facing Baxter. “Oh yes you have. Whatever it is you think you have to do, whatever you think you are after, you’re convinced now that you have to do it.”

“You think you know me so well,” Baxter said with a smile, tapping Peterman’s knee. “Look, you guys wanted me to get out of the house more…”

“Going to Rura Paray is different. It’s an edge world in Klingon space and there will be plenty of Federation presence. J’hana’s firm is providing security. You’re talking about going into the heart of Klingon space by yourself.”

“My dad did it,” Baxter said softly.

“Yeah,” Browning said. “But they like him there. I’m not sure they know what to make of you.”

“I’ll bring Eric with me. He’ll help.”

“This is madness,” Peterman said. “What do you think you’re going to find there?”

“Kelly,” Baxter said, inching forward. “Martok may have heard my Dad’s final words. Might have heard something, a message, meant for me. A message that could be important. Not just for me, but for the whole galaxy.”

Peterman knelt down, taking Baxter’s hands. “Andy, that’s sweet. But it sounds like you’re just hoping to get some kind of closure…artificial closure…instead of doing the hard work that this is gonna take. Look…”

“Kelly,” Baxter said gently. “I already have a therapist, hon.”

Browning leaned her head back. “He’s got ya there, Kelly.”

“You’re out of your mind,” Peterman said, standing and walking to the door. “I’m afraid that in a week I’m going to be doing a story about a Starfleet admiral being held hostage by Klingon militants.”

“You’re just worried that I’ll get more famous than you.”

Peterman sighed. “You’re really doing this?”


Browning stood up, walked over to Baxter, and leaned forward, kissing him on the forehead. “Well, if you’re doing it, then for Pete’s sake, be careful, Andy.”

Peterman smiled at him. “Yeah.” She followed Browning out of the office, still looking at Baxter as the doors closed.

Baxter sat at his desk, and for a moment, everything was quiet.

They might be right. This might be stupid. He might be off on some random goose chase, trying to find something out about his father, about genetic research that was 40 years old. This was all put to bed decades ago when they defeated Maura Drake, when Mirk faced her in omnipotent combat, and when the Directors rendered her and Anna Kimmel’s power potential totally neutral.

This was just Baxter’s way of keeping his father’s memory alive just a few minutes longer. That’s all it was.

He sighed and flipped one of his iPadds over, staring at status reports. It was still a few more days till the Maverick reached Earth. Maybe then he could join them for their next assignment. A safe diversion that would keep his mind off all this thing, and get him off-planet, finally, so he could check that off his list and get his friends off his back about it.

That would solve everything. It was the mature thing to do. The adult thing.

His mother would be proud.

He thought about it a moment, rapping his fingers on his desk.

“Baxter to Kurg.”

“Kurg here. Do you need more fresh grapefruit?”

“No. I need you to requisition a raceabout and pack a bag. And call Airyn Satine back.”

“You’re actually going to meet with her?”

“I’m going to do a lot more than that, Kurg.”

Baxter changed from his Admiral’s uniform to the more casual red Starfleet jumpsuit, though he kept his rank pins. Why not? He worked hard for them. He walked out onto the tarmac, a small duffel slung over his shoulder, and found Airyn Satine waiting by the raceabout, sharing an uncomfortable silence with Eric Kurg.

“I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I do not enjoy Kronos,” Kurg said. “That’s one of the reasons I choose to live on Earth.”

“Ah, well, we can all stand to get out for a bit,” Baxter said. “It’s just a quick run around the block.”

“A little more than around the block,” Kurg muttered as he trudged up the raceabout steps, shouldering his duffel - and Baxter’s.

“I’m surprised,” Airyn said, as they stood outside the runabout. “I’m usually pretty good at reading people, but I admit I had no idea what you would do.”

“I have to admit,” Baxter said. “I even surprised myself.”

“And kind of shocked you invited me along. I figured I had annoyed the shatz out of you.”

“You did. But you made some good points. And I suspect you know more about my father’s background, and Drake’s research than I do.”

Airyn bit her lip. “It’s a good bet.”

“So, like it or not, you’re needed.” He looked from Airyn to Kurg. “We’re a motley crew, but we just might be enough to get the job done.”

“There’s also a reason I wasn’t assigned to a Starship, but we don’t have to get to that now. I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Kurg said, as he stepped in and ducked behind the controls of the raceabout.

Baxter looked up at the raceabout. “The Bluestone. Sounds like a good, solid ship.”

“You Starfleet types and your love affairs with ships. I’ll never get it,” Airyn said, shouldering her satchel and ducking into the cockpit.

“Hard to explain,” Baxter said, and looked around the empty tarmac. It was just now dawn, and the sun was coming up over the San Francisco Bay. He heard the Bluestone’s engines fire up and felt an odd squirming in his stomach that was unfamiliar. He’d served thousands of days in space. But this would be the first time in more than four years.

He steeled himself and marched up the steps and into the cockpit.

“Engines ready,” Kurg said. “Starfleet Command has cleared us for launch.” He glanced over his shoulder at Baxter as Airyn sat down in one of the rearward chairs. “Last chance to turn around, sir.”

“Nope,” Baxter said, and climbed aboard. “No turning back now.”


Tags: vexed