Author: Anthony Butler
First Officer’s Log,
Stardate 53019.6. After undergoing a series of minor upgrades at Deep Space Twelve, we’ve laid in a course to rendez- vous with Captain Baxter and Counselor Peterman, who should be winding up their trip to Corsica about now. Considering how diasterous their first honeymoon was, one has to wonder why they’d want to chance another one, but if it means getting them out of my hair for a while, so be it. Meanwhile, I’m still getting used to some of the changes that have taken place aboard ship.
“Getting excited?” Lt. Hartley asked, as she accompanied Conway down the corridor.
“I’ve got goosebumps, can’t you tell?” Conway said sarcastically.
“I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Hartley said. “We’ve actually made the process fairly painless.”
“I’m absolutely giddy,” Conway said. “I’m just sorry I had to spend all our time at Deep Space Twelve in debriefing. I would have enjoyed supervising construction.”
“It was…interesting all right,” Hartley said, stopping as she and Conway reached a large, dull gray door. “This is it.”
In new, shiny letters, a sign on the door read:
USS ESCORT - NX-85392
CAUTION: DECOMPRESSION AREA
“Let’s get on with it,” Conway muttered.
“Whatever you say, boss,” Hartley said, tapping a code into the panel beside the door. With a hiss, the door wheezed open, revealing a long, circular corridor. “Age before beauty,” Hartley said with a grin, gesturing for Conway to enter.
“Har har,” Conway grumbled, shuffling in.
Once they were both inside, Hartley hit another control, causing the door to swing shut.
“This is the part that still has a few bugs in it,” Hartley explained, hitting yet another control.
A wave of vertigo overcame Conway as the corridor began to turn.
“I feel like I’m in a freaking hamster wheel!” Conway said, gripping the smooth wall for purchase as he slid around.
“Listen, Admiral McGrath wanted the thing mounted upside- down so that it would fit attractively on the underside of the saucer section,” Hartley explained. “It was up to us to come up with a feasable way to get between the two ships, and this was the best that we could do.”
Conway pushed himself off the deck and tugged his uniform back into place once the corridor finally stopped spinning. “Ugh. I feel nauseous.”
“It’ll pass. Just think of it this way, sir: There really isn’t an up or a down in space. Direction has no meaning.”
“Tell that to my stomach.”
Hartley led Conway down the corridor to another airlock and tapped in the appropriate code. “See? Relative to the Explorer, you’re upside down right now, but you don’t feel like you’re upside down, do you?”
Conway shook his head.
“That’s because the gravity field on the Escort is independent of the Explorer’s.”
“I went to Starfleet Academy too, you know,” Conway grumbled, heading down the companionway that led to the Escort’s bridge. “I understand the principles of it. I just don’t relish the idea of fifteen officers puking in that amusement park ride of an airlock.”
“Maybe we should give them hyposprays before they go in there,” Hartley mused, as her and Conway passed by a viewport.
“You’ll have to take that up with the new doctor.”
“Oh, fun,” Hartley said. “I have to crane my neck just to look her in the eyes.”
“Inter-species tolerance is all part of Starfleet, Lieutenant. Even if Benzra is part of a race that once tried to obliterate us and is two meters taller than us and shaped like a gigantic bug, we all have to accept her.”
“If you say so.”
“I certain–ugh, hoo boy!”
Conway looked out the viewport, dumbfounded. The view of the underside of the Explorer’s saucer section was disorienting to say the least. The viewport was directly across from a viewport on the Explorer, through which Nurse Holly Carter was laying out Crewman Dean Wilcox’s outfit for the day. Relative to Conway’s position, she was upside down, and that was seriously confusing his nervous system.
Without ceremony, the Commander’s knees turned to jelly and he fell back into the waiting arms of the smaller Lt. Hartley.
“Why, Commander, you’re so dainty and delicate.”
“Shut up,” Conway said, wiping his brow and wriggling free of Hartley’s grasp. “Let’s do that diagnostic and crew assignment review and get the hell out of here.”
“Fine by me,” Hartley said with a grin. “I know you just can’t wait to take another spin in that tunnel!”
“So what did you like best?” Baxter asked, leaning back and propping his feet up on the runabout Algonquin’s control panel. “The singing canyons of the B’saai valley or the floor show with the Orion dancing girls?”
“You know me,” Peterman said, not looking up from her padd. “I love those dancing girls.”
“Yeah. Me too,” Baxter said, smiling. He turned to look over at Peterman, who was leaning over her padd at the console next to him. “So what are you doing over there that’s so important?”
“I’m taking notes for my next appointment with Mr. Mirk,” Peterman said, not looking up.
“What a gal. You haven’t even returned from your second honeymoon yet and you’re already back at work.”
“I’m worried about him, Andy. These powers are too much for someone at his maturity level to take. He really has no idea how to deal with them.” Before Baxter could respond, she put the padd down and turned around in her chair to face him. “I’ve studied everything on the subject. From Wesley Crusher, to that girl that was half Q, to the Belching Starchild of Vanduck Prime.”
“And?” Baxter asked, punching in auto pilot and turning to face Peterman.
“And it all comes back to one immutable truth. Why be a crummy humanoid when you can ride comets and destroy star systems? Eventually, Mirk’s going to have to go out and sow his omnipotent oats.”
“Are you sure he doesn’t need a license to do that?” Baxter asked thoughtfully.
“I doubt it. We just need to train him properly. Make sure he’s ready to take that big step into godhood when it comes.”
“And how the hell are we going to do that?” Baxter asked.
“I don’t know,” Peterman said, returning to her padd. “But I’m going to put everthing I have into figuring that out.”
“I’m glad to see you’re not getting obsessed with this.”
“So that’s that,” J’hana slurred, slamming her glass on the bar and ordering Elli to pour her another. “Dwanok and I endured seventeen nights of pain and ecstasy and now he’s gone again. This time returning to Earth with Admiral McGrath to be debriefed and work on a way to combat the brainwashing effect.”
“That’s always how it goes,” Mirk said drunkenly from the stool next to her. “Klingon meets girl, Klingon has painful sex with girl, Klingon goes off to find his crew, Klingon is kidnapped by cult, Klingon is rescued from cult, Klingon has painful sex again with girl, Klingon goes off to develop a way to defeat cult. It’s the oldest story in the book.”
“It sucks shafflax,” J’hana grunted. “And what about you? Why are you so depressed?”
“I fear I might be turning omnipotent. BRAAAAAAAAP!”
“I’d take that seriously if it wasn’t followed by a belch,” J’hana scoffed.
“Hey, I stopped the Explorer from blowing up, and I could blow it up just as easily.”
“Oh yeah?” J’hana asked, trying to stab a finger at Mirk’s chest, but succeeding only in stabbing empty air. “Prove it.”
“Okay, I will!”
“Mirk!” Amara said, walking behind the bar and tying her apron on. “What are you doing?”
“I’m about to show this glelch chip exactly how easy it is for me to blow up this ship.”
“Oh no you don’t,” Amara said, grabbing the bottle of Tellarite Tequila from Mirk and placing it back behind the bar. “Do you realize it’s only ten hundred hours? What are you doing getting drunk at ten hundred hours!”
“We’ll get drunk whenever we want to, little lady!” J’hana said. “Right, Mirk?”
“Damn right!” Mirk echoed.
“Why don’t you both get a cup of coffee and go back to your quarters,” Amara suggested. “You’re really annoying the breakfast crowd.”
“Good!” J’hana said, turning to face the rest of the bar. “I hope all of you know what it’s like to be painfully loved then painfully left!”
“That was beautiful,” Mirk sobbed.
“Get out of here!” Amara said. “Before I have to call security!”
“Hey, this is MY bar!” Mirk said. “If you don’t like the way I run it, you don’t have to stick around!”
“Fine, fine,” Amara said, ripping off her apron. “Then it’s all yours! I quit!”
“Fine!” Mirk called, as Amara marched angrily out of the bar. “See you tomorrow?”
“Ah, home sweet starship,” Captain Baxter said, slinging his carry-on bag over his shoulder and stepping out of the Algonquin’s cockpit. “It’s great to be back. I miss that ol’ plasma smell.”
“Welcome aboard, Captain,” Lt. Commander Larkin said, waiting beside the runabout. “May I take your bag?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Baxter said, handing his bag to Larkin as he helped Peterman out of the runabout. “How have things been since we left?”
“All the scheduled upgrades were successfully completed,” Larkin said, slinging Peterman’s five pieces of matched luggage over her shoulder along with Baxter’s.
“Great. What’s next on the docket?” Baxter asked as he, Larkin, and Peterman proceeded down the corridor.
“The starship Hoboken is expected to rendez-vous with us to deliver a group of colonists at approximately twelve hundred hours this afternoon.”
“Pardon?” Baxter asked, stopping. “Did you say the Hoboken? Lydia Cameron’s Hoboken?”
“That is correct.”
Baxter moaned, looking to Peterman. “We rendez-voused with the Hoboken a few months ago when I was pregnant. Lydia gave me all sorts of ribbing about it.”
“Poor baby,” Peterman said wryly.
“I have other news,” Larkin announced.
“Okay,” Baxter sighed. “Out with it.”
“I understand that your parents are aboard the Hoboken. They wish to visit.”
Baxter glared at Larkin as she led him and Peterman into a turbolift. “WHAT?”
“I take it you were not informed of this?”
Baxter shook his head. “Deck Nine.” The turbolift thrummed upward. “No. This is their idea of a surprise. Damn it. Now we’ll have to totally rearrange our schedule.”
“I must admit I am a bit confused,” Larkin said, as the turbolift winded its way through the ship. “I have always considered reunions with family members to be happy occasions. You act as if you do not relish your parents’ visit.”
“Andy’s a bit of a mommy’s boy, Larkin,” Peterman explained, stepping out of the turbolift as its doors swung open. “And he’s just afraid of the way the crew will react to him kissing up to his mother like a spoiled little kid.”
Larkin nodded as the group headed to the door to Baxter and Peterman’s quarters. “Understood.”
“Spoiled little–?” Baxter said angrily, punching a code into the door to his quarters and stepping through as the doors opened. “Kelly, I think you’re exaggerating a bit.”
“Does the phrase, ‘I’ll always be your Booty Butt’ mean anything to you, Captain?” Peterman asked, striking her best “sad little kid” stance.
“You took that out of context,” Baxter said. “Mom is the most professional-acting woman in Starfleet.”
“Until she lets her hair down and starts pinching her son’s cheeks!”
Baxter looked back at Larkin, who’s expression was as placid as ever. “She never did that.”
“Did too,” Peterman said, disappearing back into the bathroom.
“Do me a favor and wipe this whole conversation from your memory, will you, Larkin?” Baxter asked, once he was sure Peterman was out of earshot.
“I will do as you say,” Larkin said. “Especially since there will no doubt be a glut of similar information in the coming days, ‘Booty Butt.’”
“Stop!” Baxter cried. “That’s not funny.”
“My apologies sir. But before I clear my memory of this conversation, please consider that family is a very important factor in the fabric of our society. Take my mother–”
“You mean Richards?” Baxter asked, raising an eyebrow.
“That is correct. My ‘Mommy’ happens to be a man. However, the fact that he is now on the Klingon homeworld has a measurable effect on my systems. I find his input is sorely missed by my data recognition subprotocol.”
“In other words, you want your mommy.”
“In effect, yes.”
“So I should be glad to get this visit with my parents, since your mother is off pounding out scripts for a soap opera on the Klingon Homeworld?”
“That is correct.”
“Clear your memory already.”
“He loves me.”
“He loves me not.”
“He loves me.”
“He loves me not.”
J’hana stared at the debris on the starship Escort’s viewscreen dully, resting her chin on her hand, which was propped up on the arm of the command chair. “Report.”
Lt. Gellar turned from his place at the L-shaped tactical panel beside J’hana. “All the asteroids were destroyed with one hundred percent accuracy, sir. And I believe we left off with ‘he loves me not.’”
“Very well then. Reset firing controls and find me some more asteroids,” J’hana said, leaning forward.
“Can I ask a personal question?” Gellar asked, as he tapped away at the tactical panel.
“Are you lovesick?”
“I said you couldn’t ask. Why do you persist to annoy me, Gellar?”
“Well, you’re visibly disturbed, and this is a fairly routine task. I thought I could help pass the time by making some small talk with you.”
“I could always pass the time ramming your soft human skull into the bulkhead,” J’hana returned.
“Controls are reset, and we’ve reached the new coordinates,” Gellar said, ignoring the remark.
J’hana tapped a few commands into the arm of the command chair. “Lock quantum torpedoes and…fire!”
Small blue ovals blossomed toward different asteroids on the viewscreen.
“He loves me.”
“He loves me not.”
“He loves me!”
“So Dwanok loves you after all,” Gellar said wryly. “Does that help your mood any?”
“No. It does not make him feel any closer to me.”
“You really do love him, don’t you?”
J’hana narrowed her eyes and turned slowly in the command chair to face Lt. Gellar. “Mr. Gellar: I have already given you far more warning than you deserve. I reccomend you cease this course of inquiry immediately or else incur my wrath. Understood?”
“Have it your way,” Gellar said, turning back to his panel.
“Helm,” J’hana barked, facing forward again. “Take us back to the Explorer. Full impulse.”
“Not a bad little ship, huh, Commander?” Captain Baxter asked, staring out the deck eighteen viewport, arms folded, as the Escort made her approach.
“It’s a little cramped, but it will definitely help us get to those hard-to-reach areas,” Conway agreed from beside Baxter. “Get ready. Here’s the disorienting part.”
Baxter raised an eyebrow as he watched the Escort approach the underside of the Explorer, slowly flipping end-over-end and backing, upside-down, into the place directly beneath the viewport, where the now-destroyed Captain’s Yacht used to be stored.
“You must agree,” Lt. Commander Larkin said, on the opposite side of Baxter from Conway, “that is an excellent parking job.”
Baxter could feel a soft thud as the magnetic locks on the underside of the Escort clamped the tiny ship into place. “Explain to me one more time why they had to mount it upside- down?”
“Aesthetic reasons, according to Admiral McGrath,” Conway said.
“I’ll bet the ride through that airlock is a treat.”
“No, it’s not,” Conway muttered, following Baxter and Larkin to the airlock.
J’hana and several other officers emerged from the airlock. The human officers appeared extremely disoriented, but J’hana looked absolutely energized.
“Aaaah, that was certainly invigorating!” J’hana said, joining Baxter and his two senior officers. “I must thank Lt. Hartley for installing the rotating corridor. It is a challenge for the senses.”
“Now I know I’ll hate it,” Baxter grumbled, leading the group into a turbolift.
“Amara…” Mirk said, hitting the call button again. “Come out.”
“I don’t want to talk to you right now,” the Bajoran’s voice said over the comm outside the door to her quarters.
“What’s wrong? Are you mad because I’m becoming omnipotent?”
“No, because you acted like a jerk this morning.”
“Jeeze, I’m sorry,” Mirk said. “It was stupid of me to get drunk with J’hana. But she seemed to be having such a good time. And I’ve been very confused lately.”
“That was no reason to fly off the handle at me. I don’t know what’s happening to you, Mirk. You used to be so nice.”
“I’m still nice! Come on, let me in so we can talk face to face.”
“I don’t know…”
“Fine, don’t let me in,” Mirk said, concentrating on the door to Amara’s quarters. It began to glow bright red and he proceeded to step right through it. “There. Now can we talk?” He stopped short when he realized Amara was soaking wet and wrapped in little more than a towel.
“Mirk!” Amara said, wrapping the towel tighter around her. “I was just getting out of the bath! That’s why I had the door locked!”
“Whoops!” Mirk said sheepishly, covering his eyes.
“You jerk!” she cried, picking a pillow up off her couch and throwing it at the Maloxian. “Is that what you call being nice? Using your powers to break into my quarters!”
“I just wanted to talk to you,” Mirk said, ducking the pillows as they flew at him. “I don’t want you to quit your job at the bar!”
“And why’s that?” Amara asked, throwing another pillow.
Mirk stared at the pillow until it stopped moving, reversed direction, and neatly placed itself back on Amara’s couch. “Because I like you! And I enjoy having you around!”
“I don’t know,” Amara said, folding her arms. “You really ticked me off.”
“I’ll do anything to make it up to you,” Mirk said, dropping onto one knee.
“In that case, how about taking me out to dinner tonight?” Amara asked.
Mirk thought a moment. “We could do that. I know this great little Cafe on Deck Ten…”
“I’ve gotta say, it’s great to be back on the bridge,” Captain Baxter grinned as he stepped onto the bridge of the Explorer. “It’s nice to see everything just the way I…wait a minute!” Baxter stopped short as J’hana, Larkin, and Conway f filed out of the turbolift, slamming into him. “Who redecorated?”
“Admiral McGrath,” Larkin explained. “He wanted the bridge to have a sharper, more engaging atmosphere. Lots of deep earth tones and haunting blacks and just a hint of mauve. Yeoman Briggs worked on the color scheme himself, sir.”
“I can tell. It definitely has that…Briggs feel to it.”
“You don’t like it,” Conway said, mock-pouting.
“No, no, it’s fine,” Baxter said, settling into his reupholstered chair. “It’s just that…well, did you ever notice the way that, almost every year, starships and their crews undergo a bunch of minute changes? The color scheme for instance…”
“And my new chair?” J’hana said, taking a seat on the tiny stool that rested behind the tactical console.
“And my new hairdo?” Tilleran asked from the science station, turning her head to show off her artful french braid.
“And all the new rows of blinking lights in the areas that had no blinking lights before?” Conway chimed in, pointing all around the bridge.
“Yes! That’s it!” Baxter said. “What’s the deal with that?”
“Change is an essential part of life, sir,” Larkin said. “Would you not say that we have all gone through a significant amount of change since we met a scant two years ago?”
“Are you becoming a philosopher, Commander?” Baxter asked warily.
“I do not believe so. But then again, as Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’”
“How about examining the ops panel,” Conway muttered.
“As you wish.”
“Captain,” J’hana reported, swiveling around in her new chair. “A starship is entering the system. It is the USS Hoboken.”
One of Starfleet’s more utilitarian vessels, built to fight the Borg, or Dominion, or whoever else tried to push the Federation around, the Akira-class Hoboken, with its concave saucer and swept-back warp nacelles, advanced on the viewscreen.
“Here we go,” Baxter moaned. “You might as well open a channel, Lieutenant.”
The view of Hoboken suddenly gave way to the image of Captain Lydia Cameron.
“Captain Baxter,” Cameron said wryly. “Good to see you again. Looks like you’ve lost a little weight.”
“Can we just get down to it, Captain?”
“Certainly.” Cameron stepped aside. “As you may have heard, I have some special guests for you in addition to the colonists.”
Lucille and Harlan Baxter joined Cameron at the center of the bridge, grinning and waving.
“Hi there Booty Butt!” Commander Baxter said cheerfully. Captain Baxter thought it a bit odd that she (a) was in civilian dress, and (b) actually called him “Booty Butt” in front of her fellow officers.
“The trip from Earth has been exteremly entertaining,” Cameron said. “Harlan and Lucille have told me some very interesting stories. I especially enjoyed the one about you wetting your pants…at age what, 14?”
Baxter ignored Cameron’s remark, though the rest of the bridge crew burst into laughter, save Lt. Commander Larkin, who simply mulled the information over with interest.
“Mom, Dad, what’s going on?” Baxter asked skeptically.
“We’ve got great news for you, Andy!” Commander Baxter replied.
Admiral Harlan Baxter grinned, and they both said in unison: “We’re retired!”
“Hope you have room for us on that flying four-star hotel of yours, my boy!” Harlan said jovially.
Baxter scrubbed a hand over his face in disbelief. “J’hana…ready the quantums.”
“What do you mean you’re both retired!” Baxter said, pulling at his hair in frustration and looking on as Lucille set upon straightening up their new quarters and Harlan set upon ordering a whiskey shot out of the replicator.
“What do you think we mean?” Harlan asked, downing the shot quickly. “We quit our jobs. We’re free agents now.”
“I don’t believe it. I thought you both loved your jobs– Mom! Stop rearranging the furniture! It’s fine the way it is!” Baxter said, obviously frustrated.
Lucille looked up from the couch she was singlehandedly trying to push across the room. “Well, if I’d instilled any kind of work ethic in you, you’d be over here helping me move this couch instead of arguing about it! And as for our retirement, consider it revenge for not inviting us to your wedding!”
“Yeah,” Harlan said, “what gives, son? Are we not important in your life anymore?”
“It was kind of short notice,” Baxter waffled. “Plus, we were all the way out in sector 33404. You’d never have been able to get to the wedding in time.”
“If you’d put a little more time into the planning we would have made a point to come!” Lucille said, running over and suddenly hugging Baxter so tightly he almost choked.
“That’s it. I’m ordering blood screenings for both of you as soon as you’re settled in.”
“Afraid your old man has been replaced by a changeling…again?” Harlan asked with a chuckle.
Baxter looked from one parent to another pleadingly. “Okay, so you’re not changelings. But you’re far to young to retire. You guys are only in your sixties! That’s barely middle-aged!”
“Which is why we want to spend this time productively. We want to have fun before we’re too old to really enjoy ourselves!” Lucille explained.
“You know,” Baxter said, trying to adopt a more genial attitude. “Our home back on Earth is just gathering dust. What a shame there’s no one there to occupy it. I know!” Baxter snapped his fingers. “You guys could move in there. Since you’re retired now it would be perfect!”
Once Lucille was satisfied with the placement of the couch, her and Harlan sat down on it, looking for all the world like they’d always been there.
“We didn’t retire so we could muddle away our golden years at some old house on Earth,” Harlan said.
“Just the opposite,” Lucille said. “There we were at the annual Starfleet Command Officers’ Ball last month–the first time we’d been together in almost a year–and we thought to ourselves, ‘How can we go on like this?’”
“Like what?” Baxter asked, sitting down in the chair across from the couch.
“Plugging away at our little jobs, never getting to see one another! Your father spent most of his days in a claustrophobic office and I spent them on a glorified transport ship ferrying dignitaries from solar system to solar system.”
“So we thought,” Harlan said, “‘Why not spend some time with our boy on his starship, exploring the farthest reaches of space, sharing in his adventures.’ We can finally be a family again!”
Baxter grimaced. “Not that I don’t love you guys, but I really don’t think having you all around twenty-four hours a day will be very beneficial to our relationship.”
“You’ll see! Before you know it you’ll be wondering how you got along without us!” Lucille said, jumping to her feet. “Now how about giving us a tour of this ship of yours.”
“Well, it’s not really my ship, so to speak…”
“Come on, boy,” Harlan said, grabbing Baxter by the scruff of his neck and dragging him to the door.
“Jeeze,” Baxter said, trying his best to get out of Harlan’s unbreakable grip. The Captain could already tell this was going to be very hard.
“And this would be the warp core,” Captain Baxter said dully, leaning against the warp core railing.
“Impressive,” Lucille said, taking everything in. Harlan merely smoked his cigar and surveyed the room with a relaxed grin. This really was more Lucille’s area than his.
Lucille ran a finger along the warp core casing. “I can’t be sure, but I think I can feel a little bit of dilithium residue on this chamber! Can someone get me a tricorder?” Lucille asked, glancing back at the handful of engineers that were gathered around the master systems display.
They looked to Captain Baxter and he waved them off. “I’m sure our engineer has it under control. Why don’t we–”
Suddenly Baxter heard the thrum of rocket boots and turned to be greeted by the scowl of Lt. Hartley, hovering in the open space in front of the warp core. “What was that I heard? Was someone talking about my engines?”
“Where’d you come from?” Baxter asked, eying the Lieutenant’s rocket boots with a cocked eyebrow.
“I was doing a test of the warp core’s structural integrity. It’s easier to go up and down on these rocket boots than to use the lift, isn’t it? Now what was this lady saying about my engines?”
“It’s nothing, Lieutenant,” Baxter said dismissively. “Let’s just–”
“Yes, as a matter of fact,” Lucille said. “I think you’ve got a bit of dilithium residue here.”
Baxter covered his eyes. “Oh my God.”
“I think you’re wrong,” Hartley said, folding her arms.
“Get me a tricorder and we’ll find out,” Lucille said, leaning forward menacingly.
“Fine. Stuart! Tricorder!” Hartley barked, not taking her eyes of Lucille.
“H-here you go,” Stuart said, shoving a tricorder into Hartley’s hands and casting Baxter a fearful look. Baxter just shook his head and the ensign was off, putting as much distance between himself and the warp core as possible.
“Listen…” Baxter said.
“Ah ha!” Hartley said, turning the tricorder around for Lucille’s inspection. “Look! Not a molecule of dilithium!”
“That may be,” Lucille said, “but let’s see that chamber. I imagine it’s filthy!” Lucille wrenched open the dilithium chamber, much to Hartley’s chagrin.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Hartley said irritably. “You can’t just come in here and pull open my dilithium chamber!”
“I’ll do whatever I want,” Lucille said defiantly, plucking at some of the controls within the chamber.
“That’s it,” Hartley grumbled, “it’s go time!”
“Dear Lord,” Baxter muttered. “Lieutenant Hartley!”
But it was too late. Hartley shoved Lucille away from the warp core, hurdling over the railing with the aid of her jets.
Unfortunately for Hartley, forty-five years of hand-to-hand training had made Lucille more than a fitting match for the engineer, though the two were more or less the same size.
Lucille planted her feet and thrusted forward, pushing Hartley back toward the warp core before her jets could compensate. Lucille got a little carried away and pushed so hard she flipped over Hartley and fell over the warp core railing. She plummetted down before Hartley could grab her.
“Serves her right,” Hartley said, wiping her hands on her uniform. “Who was that anyway, Captain? A visiting paper pusher from the Federation council?”
“No,” Baxter said distantly. “It was my mother.”
“Whoops,” Hartley said, and did the quickest nosedive Baxter had ever seen.
“Mighty fine operation, son, mighty fine,” said Harlan between puffs of his cigar, as Baxter stared down the warp core shaft, dumbfounded.
“Uggggggg,” Lucille murmurred as Hartley brought the retired officer back up to the Main Engineering level.
“Mom!” Baxter said, helping Hartley heave Lucille onto the deck.
“You have a very long warp core…” Lucille mumbled, and lost conciousness.
“Let’s get her to Sickbay,” Baxter said with a grimace.
“So do I have your promise you’ll stay away from Engineering for the duration of your visit?” Baxter demanded, as Dr. Benzra completed her work on Lucille’s bruised head.
“That’s a long time to stay away from a place! We’ll be here for the rest of our lives, after all,” Lucille said. “Anyway, it’s just an ankle sprain.”
“And a concusssssssssion,” Benzra hissed.
“Oh, big deal,” Lucille said. “The point is I’m okay. It’s nothing our miraculous science can’t correct, am I right, Dr. Benzra?”
“I supposssssssse,” Benzra said, nodding her huge, anvil-like head.
“You’re not helping, Doctor,” Baxter muttered. “Mom, the point is, you can’t go around telling people how to do their jobs. Lt. Hartley may have been out of line pushing you away from the warp core, but she did have a point. You weren’t authorized to go poking into the dilithium crystal chamber!”
“So, you’re going to take your friend’s side over your own mother! That’s just fine,” Lucille’s eyes began to well up with tears.
“Ssssickbay is no place for thissssss…family nonsssssense,” Benzra muttered. “I will be in my cramped office until you ssssstop.”
“Please don’t leave me,” Baxter said quietly, but the Flarn was already gone.
“You just don’t love me!” Lucille said, burying her head in Baxter’s chest.
“Mom, you know that’s not true…stop doing this. You’re making a scene in front of the other patients.”
That was a moot point, however, since the only patient in the room was Ensign Susie Morris, who had been killed in the altercation with the Starshine Kids and hadn’t been properly tagged and placed in stasis because some idiot had accidentally reprogrammed the holographic doctor into a kayak.
“You’re overreacting, Lucille,” Harlan grunted, lifting up the blanket that covered Ensign Morris and immediately replacing it. “Let the boy captain his ship. That’s not why we’re here.”
Lucille wiped her tears away and nodded. “You have a point, Harlan. Now how about we see the rest of this ship?”
“I think you’ve had enough touring for awhile. How about you get settled into your quarters and then maybe tonight we’ll have dinner at Mirk’s.”
“We didn’t come here to hang around our cabin and eat in the crew’s lounge!” Lucille said. “We want some kind of adventure!”
“There’s a holodeck ten doors down from your quarters,” Baxter said, shuffling out of Sickbay. “Now please, just stay out of trouble.”
Lucille smiled. “I’m not making any promises.”
“Well, ready to get back to mettling?” Benzra grumbled, hunching out of her office and looming over Harlan and Lucille.
Harlan still could not get over the Flarn’s appearance. “That’s a damn big doctor,” he mumbled quietly.
“So, J’hana, do you know why you’re here?” Counselor Peterman asked, crossing her legs and regarding J’hana sternly.
J’hana, who kept her normally rigid upright position on Peterman’s fluffy fainting couch, said, “Because I cracked Ensign Sanchez over the head with a phaser rifle?”
“More important than that,” Peterman said, pouring hot tea into a cute flowery cup and offering some to J’hana, who promptly refused, “your self control problem has resurfaced.”
“I was not aware that it had ever submerged,” J’hana said plainly.
Peterman set the pot down and made some notations on her padd. “You’ve shown a marked improvement since the situation six months ago when you killed your brother over Andor.”
“That could not have been helped. He had it coming to him.”
“I know. I read your report. But I have to imagine something like that would have a negative effect on your state of mind.”
“You imagine wrong. I am fine. As a matter of fact, we all had a good laugh about it at the family reunion last month.”
“I see,” Peterman said, putting the padd down. “Then let me hazard a guess…this new feeling of agression that’s come about has something to do with Captain Dwanok.”
J’hana seemed to relax herself by a few micrometers. “Is it that obvious, Counselor?”
Peterman placed a hand on top of J’hana’s. “J’hana, you know that as your Counselor, I’m here for you in times of need. You can tell me anything with the confidence that I’ll keep it to myself and do whatever I can to help. I’m your friend and confidant. Please, tell me where it hurts…”
“Very well,” J’hana said, leaning forward. “My loins are aching for him. I must once again feel the fiery condemnation of the proud Dwanok’s full ninety-nine kilos upon my body.”
“Oh dear,” Peterman said, pulling back a bit.
“You were the one who wanted to know so bad,” J’hana said. “In all truth, Dwanok is the only person I have entered into sexual combat with in the past two years.”
“Well…” Peterman said, her face falling. “I can see where that might be a problem.”
J’hana leaned in closer, her voice becoming hushed. “And I have tried the holodeck. It simply is not the same.”
“Uh-huh…” Peterman said. “That’s very informative J’hana. But I think what we have to do is…”
Suddenly the computer bleeped pleasantly. “Session over. Thank you for coming.”
Peterman sighed inwardly with relief. “Well, I’m very sorry, J’hana, but if seems our session is at an end.”
“I see,” J’hana said. “What about my assault on Sanchez?”
“Happens to the best of us,” Peterman said, ushering J’hana toward the door. “Why don’t you try to unwind on the holodeck…in a nonsexual way, that is. Try something relaxing like…I don’t know…a day at the Bajoran symphony or a night underneath the magical falls of Betazed. Or World War III on Earth.”
“I will consider your suggestions,” J’hana said, bowing to Peterman and heading through the door. She grunted a curt greeting to Captain Baxter as he weaved past her.
“Is it time for our Thursday appointment already?” Peterman asked, checking her calendar. “Great. I could use a pallate cleanser after that. Where do you want to do it today? On the desk? The couch? My chair?”
“No, no, and no,” Baxter said, kissing Peterman on the cheek and taking a seat on the fainting couch. “Today I actually want to use our appointment the way it was intended.”
“You’re kidding,” Peterman said, taking a seat across from Baxter. “You want me to counsel you?”
“Yup. I need it bad.”
Peterman wrinkled her nose. “It’s your parents, isn’t it?”
“Right on target,” Baxter mumbled.
“Well, you’ll have to give me a few minutes to adjust. We haven’t had this kind of relationship for quite some time.”
“Just think of me like any other crewmember, Kelly,” Baxter said.
“I don’t sleep with all the other crewmembers.”
“It’s just different,” Peterman said. “I don’t know how I should talk to you.”
“Why don’t you just let me do the talking?” Baxter asked. “That is how it’s done after all, isn’t it?
“That’s one way to go about it,” Peterman agreed. “In that case, why don’t you start telling me how you feel about your parents.”
“What do you mean how I feel about them?” Baxter asked, leaning back. “They’re my mom and dad. I love them.”
“If that’s the case, then why have you been so upset about having to see them?”
Baxter rubbed his chin. “I don’t know. I guess it’s because my father was never around and my mother was around too much. Neither of them were every able to simply act normal around me. So I feel like I can’t act normal around them.”
“That’s perfectly normal, Andy,” Peterman said, patting Baxter on the knee.
“No family acts ‘normal’ as you say. Everyone is different in the way they rear their children. Speaking of which, you know it won’t be long before we start rearing children of our…”
“You know,” Bulter said, standing up. “I feel a lot better all of a sudden.”
“I’m…uh, glad I could help,” Peterman said, confused.
“As a matter of fact, I’m going to go talk to my parents right now.”
“You know,” Peterman said, leaning onto the fainting couch. “There’s still about twenty minutes left in our session.”
“Hmmm,” said Baxter. “That’s time enough to do it twice.”
“Or maybe even three times,” Peterman giggled, yanking off her uniform jacket.
Once Lucille had rearranged all the furniture in her and Harlan’s quarters and revised the color scheme, she found herself once again wanting for something to do. Harlan had since left her to go fishing on the holodeck, and she was only able to sit on the couch for about fifteen minutes without going completely nuts with boredom.
“I know. The bridge!” Lucille said. “There’s bound to be something going on there.”
Lucille quickly made her way to the nearest turbolift and ordered it to the bridge. She wondered briefly why her son was having such a hard time accepting the prescence of her and Harlan aboard his ship. Certainly he loved them, but it would take time for him to adjust to the idea that they would be there, just five decks down from his quarters, ready to help him and coddle him and nurture him whenever the need arose.
“Can I help you?” a tall, blonde lieutenant asked as Lucille stepped onto the bridge.
“Yes. I’m looking for my son…Captain Baxter?”
The lieutenant tapped some buttons on a panel that was attatched to the railings around the command chairs. “The Captain is in a counseling session now. According to his appointment calendar, he should be back up here in about an hour.”
“Oh,” Lucille said. “Okay. I’ll just call him. Lucille Baxter to Andy Baxter.”
A pause. “What?” came the heavy-breathed response.
“Just wanted to see where you were, honey.”
“I’m in a counseling session!”
“Isn’t the Ship’s Counselor your wife?” Lucille asked with a touch of confusion.
“Yes, she is. What’s your point?”
“Well, I find it very odd that you’d schedule appointments with your wife, that’s all.”
“Well, I don’t find it odd at all. Now please, excuse me. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Okay, okay,” Lucille said. She looked back up at the lieutenant. “Wonder what his problem was?”
“I don’t know ma’am.”
“So,” Lucille said, leaning against the engineering console. “The bridge of the starship. This is where it all goes down.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the lieutenant replied uncomfortably.
“I spent more than thirty years on the bridge of a starship, Mister…”
“Mister Gellar, and I can tell you that those were the best years of my life.”
“Then why did you retire?”
Lucille smiled. “Because I realized that it was more important to spend some time with my son, and that I could still have adventures on his ship.”
“Very noble of you, ma’am.”
“I thought so. Well,” Lucille said, looking around the bridge. “I guess I’ll…”
Suddenly the doors to the conference room on the opposite side of the bridge spread open. Conway, Larkin, Tilleran, Hartley, J’hana, and Ford spilled out.
Conway was deep in conversation with Tilleran until he saw Lucille standing at back of the bridge. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Pardon me? I’m Commander Lucille Baxter, retired. Captain Baxter’s mother? Don’t you remember me from the time my ship rescued you all from renegade Starfleet officers when I was first officer of the Goodall?”
“Yes, I do. Now what the hell are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to visit the bridge, Mr. Conway, and as the son of the Captain and a retired Starfleet officer, I have the right to do so!”
“Well, I don’t like it,” Conway said, getting directly in the woman’s face. “You’re gumming up the operation. Why don’t you and your hair bun get the hell off the bridge!”
“You listen here…!” Lucille said angrily.
“Do you want an escort?”
Lucille looked back at Gellar. “Well…” then she remembered the situation. “No! You will hear from Captain Baxter about this, Mister. You can be sure of that!” Lucille grumbled, stepping into the turbolift.
“Oooh, I’m shaking,” Conway muttered sarcastically, ordering a cup of coffee out of the replicator and settling into the command chair.
Mr. Mirk slid past Captain Baxter and offered him a polite greeting as he entered Counselor Peterman’s office. “Good afternoon, Counselor. Are you busy?”
Peterman zipped up her uniform jacket. “Nope. Just finished. I was wondering when you’d come in, Mr. Mirk,” Peterman said, grabbing a pile of padds. “I have made extensive notes on the subject. We can begin any time you feel ready.”
“You’ve made extensive notes on my dating habits?” Mirk asked, scratching his head.
Peterman blinked. “You want to talk to me about dating?”
“Yeah. What did you think I wanted to talk to you about?”
“I don’t know…you’re dramatic increase in powers, maybe?”
“Aw, jeeze. That’s nothing. I can handle that. What I can’t handle is a certain little Bajoran waitress.”
“Amara,” Peterman said, putting the pieces together.
“Yes, exactly,” Mirk said. “Bajoran women have so much…anger.”
“No kidding,” Peterman said. “My roomate at Starfleet Academy was Bajoran and she had a real attitude problem. Do you have time for a little story, Mr. Mirk?”
“Great. I guess I really realized Ro was the wrong roomate for me one evening during my sophomore year at Starfleet Academy…”
Cadet Kelly Peterman looked at her newly curled hair in the mirror and grinned, turning from side to side and looking at the glittery dress she wore with approval. “I like it.”
“It’s frivorlous,” Cadet Ro said from her place on the bottom bunk.
“You have no sense of fun, Laren,” Peterman said, going over to the bunk and kneeling down. “Come on…come to the party with me! We might be able to meet some Seniors!”
Ro pulled away, giving even more attention to her padd. “I don’t think so. I have to study for Monday’s stellar physics test.”
“Lighten up for once, Laren!” Peterman grinned. “You know you want to go!”
“No, I don’t,” Ro said with determination.
“Come on, come on,” Peterman said, tugging on Ro’s arm and tickling her armpit. “You know you wanna go…you know you wanna go!” she said, grinning.
“Let go of me,” Ro commanded angrily.
“Not until you agree to go to the party!”
“I will not! Now let go of me!”
“Nope. You’ll have to make me.”
“You asked for it,” Ro said, grabbing Peterman by the back of the head and slamming it into the hard frame of the bunkbed.
“…needless to say that was the last time I tried to get Ro to be social. They were barely able to completely cover up the huge bump on my forehead! And I missed the party altogether because they made me spend the night in the Infirmary!”
“Uh, Counselor…I thought we were here to talk about me…” Mirk said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
“Oh, yeah. Right. Amara. Go ahead.”
“Well, J’hana and I got drunk this morning, and I guess we were being a little loud. Amara got sick of it and quit. Then I went to her quarters and tried to make it up to her, and ended up floating through her locked door.”
“That’s not very polite.”
“Anyway, I have a date with her now for dinner tonight.”
Peterman shook her head. “How do you do it, Mirk?”
“Attract women without even trying!”
“I have been trying with Amara, but I’ve been trying all the wrong things.”
“So you want me to tell you the right things,” Peterman said, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. “Aww…you want dating tips from me!”
She leaned forward and grabbed Mirk in a huge hug.
“That’s so sweet!”
“Counselor…you’re hurting me…” Mirk gasped.
Captain Baxter leaned against the tactical panel, looking down as Lt. J’hana processed her daily report on weapons response times. “I heard about your problem, J’hana.”
“Mmmph,” J’hana said, stabbing at the controls on her panel. “And where did you hear this?”
“Oh, through the grapevine,” Baxter said, walking around the console and putting an arm around the Andorian. “And I want you to know, I care. As your captain and your friend…I’m there for you.”
“Then what do you propose I do,” J’hana said tersely. “Impale myself on my dagger and proclaim my love for Dwanok while I wallow in my own blood?”
“Well, no…” Baxter said. “Actually, I was just going to suggest that you move on and find someone else.”
“Someone…else?” J’hana asked, looking up at Baxter. “Do you know any 100-kilo Klingons?”
“Not…well, not offhand. But maybe you should broaden your search. I’m sure there are tons of acceptable men on this ship.”
“Well…there’s…” Baxter rubbed his chin. “I don’t know. I’m sure something will come along.”
“And in the meantime?”
“Jeeze, I don’t know J’hana…I’m sure you’ll figure something out. There’s always the holo–”
“No. I already tried that.”
“There you are,” Commander Conway said, stepping out of the executive bathroom with his Tom Clancy book tucked neatly under his arm. “I have a bone to pick with you.”
“Stop right there!” Baxter said, putting a hand up in Conway’s face as the commander approached. “Mom told me all about your run-in with her.”
“And I don’t know who annoys me more. You for talking to my mom like she was a cheap Dabo girl or my mother for poking her nose all over this damn ship!” Baxter said, running his fingers through his hair in frustration.
“And I thought I was the one coming apart at the seams,” J’hana said primly, returning to her work at the tactical panel.
“Just don’t let her cross paths with me again, Captain, or so help me I’ll blow her out an airlock.”
“I invite you to try, Commander,” Baxter said angrily, heading for his readyroom. “She already got into a scuffle with Lt. Hartley. And if she held her own with Hartley, you don’t have a prayer.”
Conway raised a finger as Baxter turned away from him. “Now wait just a damn…”
“Science lab to Captain Baxter,” came the voice of Lt. Tilleran.
Baxter stopped in the doorway to his readyroom. “What is it, Tilleran?”
“Your mother is down here messing up a year’s worth of moss research. Get down here before I’m forced to put a containment field around her!”
“Okay, okay,” Baxter said, turning around again and making for the turbolift. “My mother is making this crew even more unfriendly than before.”
“And that is saying a lot,” J’hana noted.
“Are you mad?” Lucille asked, as Baxter lead her back to her quarters.
“Yes. No. I’m–” he stopped in the middle of the corridor and turned around. “Mom, I love you. That’s not going to change. But if you keep messing around with my officers, one of them is liable to blow you out a torpedo tube!”
“Not if you have anything to say about it,” Lucille said, folding her arms.
Baxter resumed walking. “You seriously overestimate the amount of control I have on my crew.”
“Well, then, that’s something we’ll have to change, then, won’t we?”
Baxter shook his head. “I–”
“Bridge to Captain Baxter. Sir, a Leeramar warship just entered the system,” Commander Conway said over the comm system. “They’re on about something, Captain. I think we’re in their territory yet again.”
“Who are the Leeramar?” Lucille asked.
“Big freaking bullies,” Baxter muttered, turning around and heading for the nearest turbolift. “I have to get to the bridge. Kelly and I will see you tonight.”
“Hold your horses,” Lucille said, following Baxter into the turbolift. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
“Mom!” Baxter said. “Don’t you understand? This is my ship! You can’t just take over!”
“I won’t take over,” Lucille said. “I’ll just observe.”
Baxter’s shoulders sunk. “You promise?”
Lucille smiled. “Promise.”
The first blasts pounded the Explorer as Baxter and Lucille stumbled out of the turbolift.
“Hail them,” Baxter said, walking toward the command chair.
“No response, as usual,” J’hana said. “We cannot let this species continue to push us around.”
“I tend to agree,” Baxter said, as Lucille took the seat normally occupied by Peterman. “However, we’re not exactly in the position to order them around. They outgun us three to one.”
To punctuate that remark, the Explorer rattled again.
“Shields down to thirty-three percent,” Larkin announced. “Hull integrity weakened on several decks.”
“Beef up the shields on those decks,” Conway ordered. “So what do we do? Give up again?”
Baxter thought a moment. Looked over at his mom. She was giving him that “My poor inept son” look. “No. No, we’re standing our ground.”
“Are you crazy?” Conway asked. “With that kind of firepower they’ll destroy us in minutes.”
“Finally,” J’hana said with relief.
Baxter got out of his command chair and walked over to ops. “Lt. Commander Larkin…there has to be something we can do to overpower their shields. Ideas?”
“Uncertain. Their shields are far more highly-powered than our own. Phasers and quantum torpedos have little to no effect on them.”
“What if we could find the right shield modulation to cut straight through to their hull?” Baxter asked.
“Impossible,” Larkin replied. “Their shields operate at a faster modulation than our phasers can compensate for.”
“Tractor beam,” Lucille said, standing up from her chair and walking over to Baxter.
“What?” Baxter asked.
“Lt. Commander Larkin, what is the nearest planet in this system?” Lucille asked, bending over Larkin’s shoulder.
“Delta Gamma Three,” Larkin replied. “Why do you ask?”
Lucille tapped something on Larkin’s panel as the ship took another pounding. “Look at its gravity. Four atmospheres,” Lucille said, bringing an image of the planet up on the viewscreen. “That’s enough to pull in an orbiting starship from close proximity.”
“So you want us to lock onto the warship and drag it into a planet’s atmosphere?” Conway asked incredulously. “That’s…”
“Not bad,” Baxter said. “Is that planet inhabited, Larkin?”
“Good. Baxter to Hartley, dump all our power into the tractor beam and shields.”
“And you want to do this because…” Hartley replied over the comm.
“Just do it,” Baxter commanded, returning to his command chair. He looked over at Conway. “Look how that Leeramar ship is built, Commander. It’s boxy. All its weight is concentrated around the center. Comparatively, the Explorer is aerodynamic.”
“We’re not going into another atmosphere!” Conway said, slapping his head. “We barely escaped the last time!”
“We won’t get too close,” Lucille said. “Helm, set a course for Delta Gamma Three, full impulse. J’hana…get ready to lock on to–”
“Ahem!” Baxter cleared his throat, looking over at his mother.
“Oh,” Lucille said sheepishly. “Do you want to give the orders?”
“If I may,” Baxter muttered. “J’hana, lock on to the Leeramar warship and fire up the tractor beam.”
The Explorer continued to spasm as the Leeramar warship madly fired at it.
“I’m changing the direction of the tractor beam to throw off the warship’s targeting system,” J’hana explained. “It has reduced the warship’s accuracy to sixty percent.”
“Good work,” Baxter said. “Time to Delta Gamma Three?”
“Thirty seconds,” Ford reported from the helm.
“Okay, start taking us down,” Baxter ordered.
“Captain…are you sure this will work?”
Baxter took in a deep breath. “Nope. But at least my mom won’t be disappointed in me.”
“We are entering the atmosphere,” Larkin announced. “Gravitational forces are extreme.”
“Start pulling us up and release the tractor,” Baxter ordered.
The hull of the Explorer groaned as it fought its way out of the planet’s atmosphere, friction burning at the edges of its hull. The Leeramar warship threw its last weapons at it.
“Hull breaches on decks five, thirteen, and twenty-six!” Larkin announced. “A power conduit has exploded on deck twelve!”
“Send out repair teams,” Baxter said.
“Sir, the Leeramar are attempting to lock a tractor on to us,” J’hana reported.
“On screen,” Baxter said.
On the viewscreen, the Leeramar ship was spiralling toward the planet’s surface. Purple energy sputtered out of a port on its aft side, attempting to latch onto Explorer.
“Bet you didn’t think of that,” Conway asked, glaring at Lucille.
“Actually, I did,” Lucille said. “If you recall your atmospheric physics, gravitons don’t work in atmospheres. That tractor beam isn’t locking on to anything.”
Baxter looked at his mom as the Leeramar warship disappeared beneath the clouds, followed by a huge explosion. “That was pretty good, Mom. Sure you don’t want to return to Starfleet?”
“Nope,” Lucille said, standing up. “Getting to order your crew around from time to time is good enough for me.”
“Now look what you’ve done, Baxter,” Conway grumbled.
“One of us may have to kill her,” J’hana said.
Stardate 53020.5. Dr. Benzra did a great job of cleaning up our casualties, though I’ve gotten several negative comments about her bedside manner from the crew. I think it will take some time for our crew to come to terms with being medically treated by a member of a race of giant, nefarious buglike creatures that tried to destroy our ship and conquer Earth. Go figure.
In other news, my parents show no sign of leaving in the near future and I may have to accept the fact that death to us all is the only way out. On second thought, Computer, you’d better strike that last bit.
“What do you mean we’re stuck in the Delta Quadrant?” said the extremely angry Captain Krig of the Bird of Prey Sahr’gon.
The navigator turned around. “I mean, one minute we were following Bulok into the spatial rift and the next we ended up in the Delta Quadrant.’
“That patak! Where did he go?”
“He landed his ship on a nearby planet.”
“Then get our engines fixed and follow him!”
Peterman and Baxter were curled on the couch in their quarters watching the latest installment of “Days of Honor” on their viewscreen.
Counselor Peterman shoved a handful of popcorn into her mouth and leaned back against Captain Baxter’s chest. “This all seems very familiar.”
“No kidding,” Baxter said, sipping from his glass of grapefruit juice. “I think Chris is taking the phrase ‘write what you know’ a little too literally.”
“It’s scary. I half-expect to see a Counselor Peterok appear any moment.”
“That’s silly,” said Baxter through a mouthful of popcorn. “Klingon ships don’t have counselors.”
“Larkin to Baxter,” came the chirp of the comm.
Baxter rolled his eyes and tapped the button on his endtable. “Go ahead.”
“You have a subspace transmission coming in from the Klingon Homeworld.”
“Speak of the devil,” Baxter said. “Put it through.”
Chris Richards appeared on the viewscreen in place of the Klingon Soap Opera. He was wearing what looked like a sweater made out of brillo pads. The Klingon equivalent of casual wear. “Hey buddy. How’s the captaining business?”
“Same old same old,” Baxter said off-handedly. “We were just watching Days of Honor.”
Richards appeared a little nervous. “Oh. Really. What did you guys think?”
“I got a real feeling of deja vu,” Peterman said.
“Ha ha,” Richards said. “I thought you guys might enjoy seeing our adventures up on the big screen.”
“So I’m supposed to be Captain Krig?” Baxter asked, rasing an eyebrow.
“It’s not a perfect comparison,” Richards said, looking anxious to change the subject. “So…what’s new on the old Explorer?”
“Well,” Baxter said, taking a deep breath. “Kelly and I were kidnapped by the Starhine Cult while on our honeymoon. They shaved us and altered our brains, then Commander Conway came after us in the Escort, which is the new companion vessel that they soldered to our hull, then we took another honeymoon on Corsica. Our new doctor is a female Flarn, the Leeramar tried to destroy us but we managed to toss them into a planet’s gravity well …AND on top of all that my parents retired and came to live with us on the Explorer.”
“Your parents?” Richards asked. “Man, that’s rough. Sorry, buddy. What are you going to do about it?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea. I may just leave them on the next planet we visit.”
“Andy!” Peterman said scoldingly.
“Just kidding. So, how’s work on the Klingon vid series?”
“Hmm…” Richards said. “It’s very interesting. I…uh…”
Suddenly there was another bleep from overhead. “Bridge to the Captain,” said Larkin. “Another subspace transmission has come in for you. From Waystation.”
“Hold on a sec, Chris. I have another call,” Baxter said, pressing the button on his endtable again. Dr. Janice Browning appeared on the screen. In the background, chefs busily moved around a messy kitchen, preparing heaping plates of food.
“Hey guys. What’s up?” Browning said. She was wearing a crooked chef’s hat and an apron that read “Get Some Before I Eat It.”
“Uh, not much,” Baxter said. “We were just talking to Chris.”
“Oh. How is he?”
“Good…good,” Baxter said. “What about the restaurant? How’s it going?”
“I’m finding it a real departure from what I’m used to. Everyone is nice. The customers seem to love the food. I can’t complain. How is your replacement doctor working out?”
“She’s nice. Good credentials, friendly sort. Um, a Flarn.”
“Yikes! That certainly is strange. Listen…can I talk to Kelly a minute?”
“Sure…” Baxter said. “She’ll pick up on the terminal in the bedroom.” After a few more taps on the endtable, Richards appeared back on the screen and Peterman pushed off Baxter and scuttled into the bedroom.
“That was Janice,” Baxter said.
“How is she?” Richards asked mildly from the viewscreen.
“I talked to her for about thirty seconds, Chris. I don’t know.”
“So, tell me. Honestly. How are things for you?”
“Well,” Richards said, taking a deep breath. “To tell you the truth, Andy…they’re–”
“Larkin to the Captain.”
“What?” Baxter asked in mild annoyance. “I’m trying to talk to your mommy here!”
“A Klingon warship has just entered the area. It is the IKS Ramada.”
“Affirmative. Apparently, it is Captain Dwanok’s new flagship. He wishes to talk with you.”
“How nice for him. Can’t Conway or someone do it?”
“Captain Dwanok seemed very insistant, sir.”
“Fine, fine,” Baxter said, pushing off the couch. “Chris, I’ll contact ou as soon as I can. Hang in there, buddy.”
“Will do. Talk to you later, Andy,” Richards said, reaching off-screen just before his picture winked off the viewer, to be replaced with the Klingon insignia.
Baxter bumped into Lt. J’hana on his way to the transporter room.
“Excited, J’hana?” Baxter asked with a grin.
“In many senses of the word, sir,” J’hana nodded. “I am looking forward to the pain of Dwanok’s bulk.”
“Okay, enough already,” Baxter muttered, ducking into the transporter room. “Energize,” he barked to Ensign Sefelt at the transporter console.
J’hana pushed by Baxter and scrambled up to the transporter pad as Dwanok materialized.
“DWANOK!” J’hana cried, ramming the portly Klingon into the back of the transporter chamber and kissing him ravenously. “How my loins have ached for you!”
“Dwanok,” Baxter said. “Pleasure to see you again. How was your debriefing?”
“Long,” Dwanok grunted, teasing his fingers down J’hana’s antennae and lifting her up toward the ceiling.
“I see you got a new flagship. Vorcha-class, no less.”
Dwanok spun J’hana around effortlessly. “It gets worse. I have been offered a position on the Klingon High Council.”
“How nice for you,” Baxter said, trying to ignore J’hana, who was climbing all around Dwanok, dugging at the metallic strands of his uniform. “Well, I have to be going.”
“Captain,” Dwanok said. “I wanted to speak with you. Frankly, I am troubled.”
Baxter stopped his advance toward the door, turning. Klingons rarely said they were troubled. “Really. What troubles you?”
“This contamination of our culture by…video programs. It is all very disturbing. Klingons belong in battle, not festering on a couch watching soap operas all day. I thought because your former crewmate is on the writing staff of ‘Days of Honor,’ you might be able to do something about it.”
“You’re on the High Council now. I’m sure you’ll be able to do something about the problem. All Chris does is write the shows. You have to go to the producers.”
Dwanok nodded grimly. “And so I shall.”
Baxter lowered his voice. “And, off the record, I’d just as soon Chris came back to this ship myself.”
“Noted, Captain,” Dwanok said, lifting J’hana up in his arms. “Now, if you’ll excuse us. We have…catching up to do.”
“Oh, rapture!” J’hana sang out as Dwanok shouldered her out of the room.
“Wow,” Sefelt said, watching J’hana and Dwanok leave.
“Eyes on your post, Mr. Sefelt,” Baxter grinned, making sure he headed out in the directon opposite from the one J’hana and Dwanok had taken.
Lucille chewed thoughtfully on an asparagus stem. “Well I for one think it strikes a blow for cross-cultural understanding. Slow down and chew your food, Harlan.”
“Mmmmph,” Harlan muttered, shoving in more gagh.
Baxter bristled. “The Federation has plenty of cross- cultural understanding. I’m just worried that J’hana and Dwanok will destroy one of our holodecks in the process of consummating that…understanding.”
“Stay out of other people’s business, Andy, and finish eating that asparagus. You’ve barely touched it.”
Baxter pushed the plate away. “My ship, my plate, my asparagus. If I don’t want to eat it, I don’t have to.” He folded his arms.
“Fine,” Lucille said. “Be that way. But you should think of all the hungry orphans on Bajor. They’d love to have that asparagus.”
Baxter tossed back his grapefruit juice and pushed his chair back. “Then we’ll send ‘em some.”
Peterman looked around the group, smiling weakly and trying to think of a way to change the subject. “Hey, if you want, you guys can come back to our quarters and look at the wedding pictures.” The counselor gestured toward the door.
Harlan slammed his drink down. “Great idea!’
“The hundreds upon hundreds of pictures,” Baxter said woefully, following Peterman and his parents out of the lounge. “What fun.”
The group bumped into Mirk and Amara as they were leaving the lounge.
“Evening guys,” Mirk said, wrapping his arm around Amara and following them out of the lounge.
“Hello, Mirk,” Peterman said with a smile. “Did you guys have a nice dinner?”
Mirk grinned. “Oh, yeah.”
Amara smiled and looked up at Mirk lovingly. “It was great.”
“Where to now?” Baxter asked.
“The holodeck,” Mirk said with a wink.
“Let me guess…the beach.” Baxter cast a suspicious glare at Peterman who simply shrugged.
“You got it,” Mirk said.
“Well I know you guys will have a lovely time,” Peterman said.
“What is it with you and the beach?” Baxter whispered as Mirk and Amara strolled away.
“I think it’s nice,” Peterman said. “And if you were a little more romantic you’d probably like it too.”
“So,” Lucille asked, as the group moved toward the turbolift. “When can we expect grandchildren?”
Baxter rolled his eyes. “Here we go again.”
Mirk smiled at Amara as he approached the holodeck control panel. “You’ll just love this, Amara. I worked very hard on…wait a minute?”
“What is it?” Amara asked, peering over Mirk’s shoulder.
“Someone’s already in there…and they’re running my program!” Mirk said. “How do you like that. I made a point to reserve this thing for the entire night.”
“Did you now,” Amara said, smiling devilishly.
“Well, we’ll see about this,” Mirk said, pounding on the holodeck door. “Okay, whoever you are, come out of there. I reserved that holodeck fair and square.”
Suddenly two loud, almost animal-like growls echoed within the holodeck. Then two sets of loud feet-thumps hitting sand.
Mirk instinctively pushed Amara away and stood back as the doors to the holodeck opened.
J’hana was wearing some sort of fur dress…or what was left of it, and she was badly bruised.
Dwanok, for his part, hovered behind her, equally bruised, and covered in sand and shells.
“What do you want?” Dwanok bellowed.
“We…uh…reserved this holodeck,” Mirk said quietly.
“FIND ANOTHER ONE!” J’hana cried, stabbing a control on the holodeck arch which caused the doors to swing shut.
“I don’t know about you,” Amara said fearfully. “But I’m suddenly very tired.”
“You and me both. Let’s go,” Mirk took Amara’s arm and began leading her down the corridor.
“Hey…where are we going?” Amara asked.
“My quarters,” Mirk said matter-of-factly.
“No, I mean I really want to sleep.”
“Oh,” Mirk said. “Okay.”
“In my own quarters.”
“Oh.” Mirk looked around a bit. “That’s fine. It was a lovely evening.”
“Yes, it was,” Amara said, turning away. “Have a nice night.”
Mirk watched Amara’s shapely body as she walked away. He could feel the energy building up inside him.
“Damn!” Mirk said, as Ensign Ryan Stuart passed by. Suddenly Stuart glowed purple and flew against the bulkhead.
“Sorry,” Mirk said sheepishly, turning back toward the turbolift. “I better find another holodeck before I cause a hull breach.”
Stuart rubbed his shoulder as Mirk walked away. He didn’t realize the Maloxian’s powers had become so hard to control
He’d better get that shoulder looked at. Give him a chance to meet the new doctor. He’d heard she was a female. Maybe this was his chance to finally meet a charming, compatible woman.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t.
Dr. Browning and Lt. Commander Richards talk a good game. Sure, they’re having fun at they’re respective new jobs. Or are they? Tune in next time to find out exactly what’s going on with our beloved ex-crewmembers in “On the Job Hazards.”