Star Traks: The Vexed Generation was created by Anthony Butler. It's based on Alan Decker's Star Traks, which in turn is based on Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry. Paramount and Viacom, their dark masters, own everything, including, according to last week's Voyager, the copyright on the "Emergency Command Hologram." But you all remember who came up with that idea first, right? RIGHT?? Copyright 1999. All rights, such as they are, are reserved. If you're offended by mildly disturbing language, situations, and the utter disregard of some of Star Trek's greatest premises, better hit the "Back" button on your browser right now. If not, welcome aboard!

Author: Anthony Butler
Copyright: 1999

Captain’s Log,

Stardate 54732.7. We’ve spent two weeks studying deformed space in the Sartid sector and are nearly at our wit’s end. I can’t remember the last time I saw a planet, had a shoreleave, or even stepped foot off this damn ship. I am, however, finding ways to relieve my boredom.


“Fourth down and twenty. And Baxter goes back to pass. This could be the ballgame!”

Captain Baxter dropped back; his ‘94 Dallas Cowboys offensive line pushed and shoved to give him room to throw. Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper were out wide, Jay Novacek at tight end was in the flat, and Emmitt Smith and Darryl “Moose” Johnston hung back at the sidelines.

Baxter gave his options a look-over, pump-faked, went back to pass, and heard the holodeck door swish open behind him. He turned to see what the noise was and immediately something from behind slammed into him, crushing him to the ground.

“Cappy!”

He knew immediately who was talking to him without looking up. He couldn’t look up, though, because at present Reggie White was piled on top of him, pressing down with his enormous weight.

“Dean…” Baxter gurgled. He heard pieces cracking in his spine. “Computer, freeze.” Baxter squirmed out from under Reggie White and crawled to his feet.

“Sorry, Captain, he wanted to play with you!” Nurse Holly Wilcox said, scrambling up from the corridor. The Holodeck door was still open, because Dean, dressed in his usual velvety blue jumpsuit, stood dumbly in the doorway staring at Baxter with pure adulation.

Baxter rubbed his neck and tried to plaster on a smile for Dean. “And how exactly did Dean know where I was going to be?”

“Counselor Peterman told him. All of us were just having lunch at Dr. Browning’s.”

“How nice,” Baxter murmurred.

“Football!” Dean cried, rushing out onto the field.

“Please play with him, Captain,” Holly said. “He heard you were playing football and got so excited. Just a few…um, rounds, or whatever.”

“I’m sorry, Nurse Wilcox,” Baxter said, adjusting his Dallas “Number Eight” jersey. “I’m a very busy man.”

“Larkin to the captain,” came Lt. Commander Larkin’s voice over the comm. “I have assimilated the entire Nancy Drew book series. Would you like me to summarize it for you now?”

“Negative, Larkin,” Baxter said, then lowered his voice, “just move on to the Hardy Boys.”

“Aye, sir.”

Holly blinked her eyes expectantly up at Baxter. “Please, sir!”

“All right, all right. Let’s see what he’s got.” Baxter glanced over at Dean, who was jogging laps with the widespread players on the field, ducking in and out around them. “Hey, Dean!”

“Cappy!”

“Let’s play ball!”


“Baxter drops back, fakes to Smith, looks–”

“Cappy, here! Throw!”

Baxter chewed his lip and looked from reciever to reciever. He couldn’t bear to look at the sideline, where Jay Novacek was pacing and casting dirty looks the coach’s way. Poor guy didn’t realize it was Baxter who substituted him for a braindead weakling.

Meanwhile, in sweatsuit and helmet, Dean sat on the field pulling at grass. At least he wasn’t being covered by the Green Bay defenders, though. He was being laughed and pointed at, but not covered.

“Cappy, throw!” Dean called out, tossing grass in the air.

“Okay, okay!” Baxter said and hurled the ball at Dean. It smashed right into his head and knocked him flat on his back. Soon after, every nearby defender collapsed on top of Dean in a huge pile.

“Computer,” Baxter said quietly. “Uh, exit.” He backed out the door and into the hallway, to come face to face with Holly Wilcox.

“Well?” she asked. “How’s it going?”

“Gotta get up to the bridge,” Baxter said, jogging for the nearest turbolift. “Emergency, you know, Red Alert? I think Dean is really enjoying himself, though! In fact, he’s having a smashing good time!”


“The funny thing is, he can’t wait to play again,” Holly said, as Dr. Janice Browning finished running a mender over Dean’s bruised skull.

“It figures, Holly,” said Browning, putting her mender away in a drawer. “His head has been smashed by a forty meter fall. Anything less than that to him is just…playtime.”

“That’s a disturbing thought.”

Your husband is braindead and THAT’S a disturbing thought? thought Browning.

Browning sat up on the biobed beside Dean and patted him on the head. “And how are you doing there, Tiger?”

“Fooball!”

“Yes, you played fooball,” Browning said. “What’s next on the playtime schedule?”

“No more fooball,” said Holly. “We need something a little safer.”

“Why don’t you let him help Lt. Commander Tilleran with the sensor scans of this area of dented space?”

“You mean deformed space?”

“Yeah, that stuff. He was a science officer before he became braindead, wasn’t he?”

“Well, sure, I guess,” Holly said. “Okay. Good idea, Doctor.”

“Hey, he should be great at studying deformed space.”

“Why, exactly?”

Because he’s deformed. Browning blinked. “Uh, because he’s such a great guy.”

“Okay. I’ll see you later, Doc.”


“Unlike everyone else on this ship, I’m really busy right now,” Lt. Commander Tilleran said, crossing from one side of the astrometrics lab to the other, checking readings, handing padds to passing officers and checking the huge galaxy view on the main screen. “Make it quick, please, Holly.”

Holly stood in the middle of it all, watching the rush of activity around her. “I just thought Dean might make himself useful around here.”

“Dean? Oh…right, Dean Wilcox. He used to work in my department, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, almost four years ago.”

Tilleran turned from a screen of sensor readings and thumped her padd thoughtfully on her hand. “You know, before his accident, Dean was really brilliant.”

“He was?”

“It’s been a long time since I read that crew profile, but yeah. He was top of his class at Fed. U. He once wrote a three hundred page treatise on black holes in the Betamax cluster. Everyone who knew him figured he would go on to become a great scientist. Who knows what he would have discovered by now if he hadn’t…”

“Thunk!” said Dean.

“Yeah, thunk,” Tilleran said thoughtfully. She looked Dean over for a few moments. “Oh well!” She turned on a heel and returned to her scans.

Holly reached to grat Tilleran’s arm. “Wait, Commander! You’re saying there’s a powerful mind locked away somewhere in that horribly damaged brain of his?”

Tilleran shrugged. “I don’t know. Let’s check.” She stepped toward Dean and placed her hands on his shoulders. She stared into his eyes. “Let’s see here…yep. Yep, there’s a hum- dinger of a brain pumping in there. Probably an IQ of about two hundred seventy-five. Maybe three hundred.”

“Really?”

“Yep. Too bad.” Tilleran whirled back to her scans. “Ensign Marx, will you get me the scans of section four-three- seven?”

“Wait!” Holly said, rushing to twirl Tilleran back to face her.

“You must do a hell of a tango,” Tilleran said with a grin. “But I have to get back to work.”

“Commander, if there’s anything you can do, I’m begging you to try to help Dean. I’m two weeks away from getting my M.D. and I’m sure Janice will help!”

Tilleran considered. “Well, I have a ton of work to do. How about later this afternoon?”

“That would be wonderful!” Holly exclaimed. She turned to face Dean. “Here that, Deaners? We’re going to fix your brain! Make it work again!”

Dean clapped his hands. “Brainbrainbrainbrainbrainbrainbrain!”

“That’s the idea!”


“Here’s some popcorn,” Captain Baxter said, scooting in next to Counselor Kelly Peterman in the front row of the Operating Room observation deck. She and other members of the crew were huddled around the upper deck to look down on Dr. Browning, Nurse Wilcox, and Lt. Commander Tilleran as they operated on Dean.

“I can’t figure out what’s happening,” Commander David Conway said, folding his arms and shifting in his seat on the other side of Baxter from Counselor Peterman. “Did they cut into his brain yet?”

“They’re still getting the top of his skull off, idiot!” Tyra Shar said from beside Conway, and smacked him on the back of his head.

Baxter leaned over and whispered, “Commander, you shouldn’t take that.”

“And you shut up too, you fat, lumbering–” Tyra barked at Baxter.

“I’m trying to operate here!” Dr. Browning called up from the operating area.

“I’m your captain, Miss Shar!” Baxter said quietly, between clenched teeth. “One word from me and you’ll be teaching Federation Standard to a remedial Pakled class!”

“I’m quaking in my boots!”

“SHUSH!” Peterman said, shoving popcorn in her mouth angrily.

FWOP!

Lt. Commander Tilleran turned to address the crowd. “We’ve just removed the skullcap, ladies and gentlemen. You’ll find that the brain tissue below is scarred heavily and inflamed, and swollen in quadrant two, three, and four.”

“Mmmmph!” Lt. Ford covered his mouth and ducked between his legs.

Lt. Commander Tilleran slid a visor over her eyes and knelt behind Dean’s head, carefully examining the damaged brain tissue. “Our goal will be to reconstruct the damaged brain areas without drastically changing his personality or making him a vegetable.”

Dr. Browning knelt by Tilleran, and turned to face the audience, nodding. “A vegetable like squash or stuffed red peppers, both on special at Space Tastes every Wednesday night!”

“Sealer!” Tilleran demanded, shoving out her hand.

“Oh, right,” said Browning. She studied Dean’s brain as Tilleran worked. “Ariel, I didn’t know you were a brain expert.”

Tilleran placed the oblong, blue-glowing sealer in her mouth and began massaging the brain tissue, feeling for weak points. “Who said I was? I really just dabble in a little bit of everything.”

“This IS safe, isn’t it?” Holly asked.

“Sure it–whoops!” Tilleran hopped back a bit, then looked over at a screen which displayed Dean’s vital readings.

“What?” demanded Holly.

“Oh, nevermind. It’s fine. No need to worry. Get me a sutre. And prepare the reconstruction helmet.”

“Right.” Browning looked around the operating room. “And what’s that look like?”

“A helmet.”

“Right.”

“That big device I worked for the last hour on? That thing I called ‘Dean’s Last Hope in Hell’?”

“Oh, THAT!” Browning scampered over to a table at the opposite side of the operating room and gabbed the large helmet, which was reminiscent of a giant beanie with electrodes and funny dials and lights blinking all over.

“Impressive device,” Lt. Commander Larkin said tonelessly.

Lt. Commander Richards nodded. “But will it work? And why didn’t she test it first?”

“Apparently the operating arena is booked the rest of the week. Today is the only day she can perform the surgery.”

“That’s reassuring,” Richards mumbled.

SWUNNNK!

“There we go,” Tilleran said as she gave the red, white, and green-blinking helmet a good twist to make sure it was on tight. “The device has been suctioned directly onto Dean’s brain.”

“GGGPMPH!” Ford groaned and ran for the exit.

“Now to siphon off the excess fluid…”

“MMMMRRRPH!” came the muffled voice from the corridor.

Tilleran stood back. “There we go. It’s interesting to know that this device was created with some spare parts from the device we used to transport Captain Baxter’s consciousness to the Alpha Quadrant, when we were stuck in the Delta Quadrant.”

“That’s reassuring,” Baxter groused.

“But I can conclude within a reasonable margin of error that this operation will work,” Tilleran said.

“What kind of margin of error?” asked Holly Wilcox.

Tilleran considered that as she tapped some parameters directly into the helmet’s control panel. “Good question. Maybe forty, forty-five percent. Fifty, even.”

“Uh, Commander, you never told–”

“Switch her on!” Tilleran ordered, and Browning obligingly hit a control on the wall panel.

The helmet buzzed to life, thrummed with energy; the lights in the room began to dim.

“Engineering to Operating Arena,” came Lt. Kamtezen’s worried voice from engineering. “We’re putting an awful strain on the mains. What the heck is going on up there?”

“Ressurecting a brain, Kamtezen,” Baxter said. “Keep the juice pumping, Lieutenant. That’s an order.”

“Aye, sir. But don’t blame me if we blow up.”

“Duly noted,” Baxter said, and glanced down, fumbling his hand in the popcorn bowl. “Well? What’s happening?”

Tilleran watched the wall panel. Zig-zag lines began to appear. Lights sprung to life all over the board. “Amazing! I’m getting brain activity!”

“It’s aliiiiive!” Commander Conway called out.

And Dean shot up on the operating table in such a kneejerk fashion that everyone around him, including the crew up in the observation deck, lurched backward.

His eyes snapped open, he looked about, and then up at the Explorer senior staff. “Hello, what’s this? I seem to have taken a rather nasty fall. And what is this blasted contraption on my head? What’s your diagnoses, Dr. Browning? Will I survive?”

Dr. Browning fumbled for words, mouth wobbling in search of an answer.

“And why don’t I recognize this room?” Dean asked, searching the faces around him for answers. “This isn’t part of the Aerostar science complex. Did another starship find us already? I had feared we’d be stuck in the Delta Quadrant for an eternity.”

“Mr. Wilcox…” Tilleran said slowly. “You…took a really bad fall.”

“I see that,” Dean said, then glanced at the tray by the operating table. “Good lord, woman! That’s the top of my skull! What in blazes is it doing off my head! No wonder this helmet is chafing so badly!”

“Like I said,” Tilleran said. “A REALLY bad fall.”

“Deanie, honey, calm down,” Holly said softly, patting Dean’s shoulder. “Everything will be explained to you.”

“And who are you?”

Holly’s lip trembled. “Who…am…I?”

“Yes. It’s a simple question. Who are you?”

“She’s your freaking wife!” Conway called out, and was immediately slapped hard in the face by Tyra Shar.

“My…wife?” Dean looked once again up at the group on the observation deck. “Am I missing a crucial piece of this puzzle?”

“Your missing a lot of pieces,” Baxter said.

“Four years of pieces!” said Conway.

“Four…YEARS?”

Tilleran patted the operating table. “How about we get your skullcap back on, Mr. Wilcox. Then we’ll sort everything out. Suffice it to say, you’ve been…not yourself…for a long time.”

“And didn’t anyone try to help me?” Dean asked, slowly leaning back down on the table.

“A couple people tried,” Conway said, grinning, “but we stopped ‘em.”

“Whatever for?”

“Because this is where you belong,” Holly said. “At least I thought it was!” And she ran from the room.

“What’s she on about?”

“I’d better go get a pie out of the oven,” Dr. Browning said, heading for the door. The senior staff glowered down at her. “And then give it to Holly. You know, as a consolation!”

More glowering.

“Okay, I’ll try to comfort her first.”

Satisfied nods of approval, and Browning ducked out of the door.

Tilleran loomed over the helmet. “This is fantastic, Dean! Just think of the publicity!”

“For you or me?”

“Both. Now hold still while I yank this sucker off and screw your skull back together.”

“Good idea.”


That night, in the Constellation Club, Mirk held a “Welcome Back Dean” party complete with festive brain-shaped souffles and plenty of Rigellian scotch.

At the front of the Club, the Elton John hologram, dressed in a blue velour suit and huge shoes, pounded on a piano: “I can see Dean-o waving goodbye….God it looks like Dean-o, must be the clouds in my eyes….they say Breen is pretty, though I’ve never been. Dean-o says it’s the best place that I’ve ever seen. He should know, he’s been there enough. Lord I miss Dean-o, oh I miss him so much! Dean-o my brother, you are older than me! Do you still feel the pain of the head that won’t heal? Your brain was dead, but now you’re back alive–Dean-o you’re a star…on the starrrrrrship we ride!”

“He’s wonderful,” Counselor Peterman said, sipping her pink squirrel and leaning on the bar.

“Who?” asked Mirk from behind the bar. “Dean or Elton John?”

“Both, I guess.”

Dean was at the center of the dance floor, mobbed by crew who were curious about what it was like to be braindead for three years, curious to hear what he planned on doing now that he had the full function of his brain back. Captain Baxter elbowed his way out of the crowd and bellied up to the bar next to Peterman.

“That man can really talk,” Baxter said. “He’s so brilliant. He calculated Pi to six hundred places for us right then and there.”

“A party kind of guy,” Mirk said dumbly.

“Rum ‘n grapefruit,” Baxter ordered. “And another pink squirrel for the lady here.”

“Aw, Andy,” Peterman blushed. “I do believe you’re trying to get me drunk.”

“Indeed I am,” Baxter chuckled, and looked out at the audience. As he gazed out at the different crewmembers surrounding Dean, something suddenly didn’t feel right. “Kelly. Where’s Holly?”

“Hmmm?” Peterman said, swilling from her fresh glass.

“Holly. Holly Wilcox. Dean’s wife?”

“Oh. Her. Heheh. Don’t know. Maybe she’s….hiiiiiiiiiiigh as a kite!”

“Mirk, you’ve got my wife quoting Elton John now,” Baxter mumbled.

“It’s not my fault she’s getting shlarrzed,” Mirk said. “But your point is well-taken. Holly’s not out there. She hasn’t been in all night.”

“Computer,” Baxter said, taking a heavy breath. “Locate Holly Wilcox.”

“Holly Wilcox is in her quarters,” replied the computer.

“Counselor,” Baxter said, looking at Peterman.

“What?” Peterman said, and collapsed to the floor.

Baxter looked down at Peterman with discomfort. “Mirk…take her to detox. I guess…I guess it’ll have to be up to me to talk to Holly. But I’m not doing it without backup. Brok!” Baxter called over to Mirk’s Bolian assistant. “Go detach Dr. Browning from the cake table and get her over here!”

“Aye, sir!”


With cake still smeared on her face, Dr. Browning accompanied Baxter down the hall to Holly Wilcox’s quarters. “What’s our goal here, Captain?”

“To try and get Holly to understand that what’s happened is the best thing for Dean. She should be happy for him.”

“But, in a way, she’s lost her husband. That’s not the same man she married.”

“They married for convenience, Janice, does it really matter one way or another?”

“I don’t think it’s just convenience for her, Andy. I think she loves him.”

“And now he’s a changed man.”

“Quite literally.”

“Well then, we’re just going to have to acclimate Holly to the new situation. We’re the crew of the USS Explorer. We take care of our own.”

“If you say so. And where’s Counselor Peterman in all this?”

“Sobering up.”

“I see.”

Baxter arrived at the door to the Wilcox quarters. He thumped the call button and there was no reply.

“Computer, override this lock. Security clearance Baxter Omicron Delta four-two-two.”

The door slid open and Baxter stepped in. “Hello? Nurse Wilcox?”

“Holly?” Browning asked, peering in.

The room was dark.

“Go away,” came a small voice from within the room.

“Computer, lights, one-half,” Baxter said, and the lights went up, just as he rammed his shin into an end-table. “F***!”

“Come on in,” Holly said glumly, curled on her couch beside the endtable.

Baxter hobbled over and sat down beside her on the couch. Browning sat down on the other side of her.

“Kelly would call this an intervention, Nurse Wilcox,” Baxter said. “Dr. Browning and I are here to try to help you through this.”

“Mighty nice of you, Captain. But there’s nothing you can do. My marraige is over!” And Holly buried her head on Baxter’s shoulder.

“And what exactly do I do now?” Baxter asked, glancing down at the sobbing nurse.

“You pat her head and tell her it’ll be okay,” Browning said, and walked over to the replicator. “Computer, Death by Chocolate, one gallon.”

“That’s for all of us, right?” Baxter asked, patting Holly Wilcox’s head.

Browning reached in and grabbed the tub of ice cream. “Uh, yes. Of course it is.”

Browning grabbed three spoons off the kitchen table and returned to the couch. “Here, Holly. Eat. Doctor’s orders.”

Holly grabbed a spoon ruefully, stabbed it into the chocolate, and shoved it in her mouth, sucking like a toddler, still sobbing.

“Uh, Holly, you’re getting ice cream on my uniform,” Baxter said uncomfortably.

“I loved the braindead Dean! That’s so pathetic!”

Baxter patted Holly’s head with one hand and reached for a napkin to wipe his uniform with the other. “That’s nonsense. There’s nothing wrong with loving a…brainally challenged man. Just ask President Inyo’s wife.”

Holly let out a small giggle.

“Was that a laugh I heard?” Baxter said, nudging Holly’s chin. “Huh? Come on, out with it. Have you ever heard my Jaresh-Inyo impression?”

“Heh-heh, nope…” Holly said, grabbing another spoonful of ice cream from the tub on the coffeetable.

Browning rolled his eyes. “Not this again.”

Baxter straightened, made his face look stern and crinkled. “What did you say about the Fedecare Tax? I’m sorry, I was sleeping. I never wanted this job. My people made me do it. I’m sooo boring. My favorite colors are tan and brown. I haven’t had sex in thirty-two years. Where’s my crossword puzzle? I’ve spent a year on it!”

“Stop, stop!” Holly cried, pounding Baxter’s shoulder.

“I knew that would cheer her up,” Baxter said defiantly to Browning.

“I never said that,” Holly said, and stuck her spoon back into the ice cream tub. She came up with a tiny brown sliver. “What?”

Browning giggled. Her bowl was piled high with ice cream. “What? What are you two looking at?”

“You could have offered me some,” Baxter muttered.

Just then the door to Holly’s quarters slid open and Dean Wilcox stepped in.

“What are you three doing in my cabin?” he asked angrily.

“I’m the captain of this ship. I can hang out in whatever cabin I want to,” said Baxter.

“This is OUR cabin!” Holly said, sitting up off the couch. “We’re married. Doesn’t that MEAN anything to you?”

“Not especially, since I agreed to the vows when I was braindead. I consider the marraige annulled. Please have your things out of here by tomorrow morning.”

“You’re not being very sensitive about this, Dean,” Dr. Browning said. “Holly took care of you when no one else cared. Including me!”

“And me!” Baxter said, folding his arms.

“Well I sincerely appreciate what she did for me. But that can’t stop me from living my life now. And that life does not include…a loopy nurse!”

“I’m almost a doctor!” Holly rebutted.

“No matter. I have been and always will be a scientist. It was my goal to win the Zephram Cochrane prize by the time I was thirty. I spent four years as a walking, talking kumquat, and I don’t intend to waste any time now that I’m back among the living. I never had room for women in my life before, and I’m not going to now. Understood?”

Baxter leaned over to Browning. “I liked him more when he was braindead.”

“Me too,” agreed Browning. She glanced at Holly. “We should go.”

“Have a nice night,” Baxter said, and rushed for the door, with Browning on his heels.


Peterman sat across from Baxter’s desk in his readyroom, holding a cold compress to her head and sighing.

“I can’t believe it. I looked up his crew profile from the Aerostar days. He was pretty business-minded, but at least he was pleasant.”

“Well, the brain damage didn’t do much for his personality, apparently,” Baxter mumbled, twisting back and forth in his chair and looking at the morning security reports on his desktop viewer. “Do you see here where Ford and Gellar wrecked the science lab in a drunken rampage?”

“Uh. Yeah. I was there.”

“Kelly!”

“They let me out of detox too soon. I was still buzzing. How many Pink Squirrels did I have, anyway?”

“TWO!”

“Boy. I need to work on my tolerance.” Peterman walked over to Baxter’s replicator. “White russian, please.”

“Kelly Lynne Peterman!” Baxter said, jumping to his feet and intercepting the drink before Peterman could grab it. “We have a very depressed and unhappy Chief Nurse and a man who’s been braindead for three years on our hands. This is no time for you to fall apart on me!”

“Relax, Andy,” Peterman said. “I was just getting it for the sweet milky flavor.”

Baxter shoved the drink back into the replicator and hit “RECYCLE.” “Sure you were. Well, think again. Have a stiff grapefruit juice then go belowdecks and fix those people up. Okay?”

“Sure,” Peterman said, and turned for the door. “Oh, and by the way, if you see Mirk tell him I have no idea where his pants are.”

“Will do,” Baxter said, glancing back to his reports as Peterman left. “Wait. WHAT THE HELL?”


Dean Wilcox paced Astrometrics, glancing from time to time at the vast wall of space that faced him, bleeping with active stars, deformed areas, nebulaes, gaseous anomalies, etc.

“I think we’re missing something.”

At the controls, in front of the deck that faced the astrometrics wall, Lt. Commander Clarice Forrester grimaced. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Wilcox. Our department has been quite efficient in mapping the deformed areas of space. If there was an anomaly that we haven’t recorded, we would have recorded it by now.”

“Come again?”

“I say we’re not missing anything,” Forrester harrumphed. “Now why exactly did Commander Tilleran send you down here?”

“So that I could analyze your work and improve upon it, Clarice.”

“Commander Forrester.”

Dean turned on a heel, squatted down on the deck to face Forrester at her controls. “Let’s get one thing straight, Clarice. I graduated from Federation University Magna Cum Laude. I was awarded a fellowship from Mars Institute for Technology, and Calabrian Tech. My research on quantum slipstreams is unchallenged in this quadrant. I am the teacher here and you are the student. Are we clear?”

Clarice Forrester floundered. “What are you doing for dinner tonight?”

“Working,” Dean said, and returned to the wall. “I can waste no time, especially not on doddering fools like you. You’ve been reassigned to the geology department. Get out of my sight.”

“You can’t just…”

“This comes right down from Commander Tilleran. Talk to her.”

“But–”

“Bye-bye now.”


Commander Conway walked down the corridor toward the science labs with Lt. Commander Tilleran.

“Clarice Forrester is not happy, Commander,” Conway said. “Her speciality is astrometrics. Why did you reassign her to geology?”

“Because Dean can work at warp speed compared to Forrester.”

“But Forrester is the senior officer. Dean’s not even an officer…”

“If my request goes through, he will be.”

“You’re trying to get Dean a field-commission?”

“Why not. It’s the least Starfleet can do for letting him rot as a fharbus root for three years.”

“You’re taking this quite personally, aren’t you?”

“Of course I am. He works in my department. I want to see him go places. He’s been stranded on this ship as a brain-dead vegetable for too long. It’s time for him to shine.”

“What is he, some sort of protoge for you now?”

“Dean’s going to go a lot farther than I ever dreamed I could, and probably within just a few weeks. I’ve seen some of the things he’s working on. It would blow your mind.”

“I’m sure. So I guess you’ll just be remembered for developing the brain device that repaired him?”

“I surely hope so.”

“Something just doesn’t feel right about this. How can a man go from being a total imbecile to a genius in one day?”

Conway and Tilleran reached the door to astrometrics. “That’s a question for the ages, not for me, Commander.”

“If you say so.” Conway and Tilleran walked in, to find Dean stabbing a finger at the astrometrics wall.

“I’ve done it!” Dean said. “I’ve found the missing piece!”

“Goody,” Conway mumbled.

“What have you found, Dean?” asked Tilleran.

Dean whirled to face Conway and Tilleran. “A new layer of space, between subspace and normal space. A whole new world for us to explore!”

“And I guess we’ll be calling this deanspace?” Conway mumbled.

Dean blinked at Conway. “You have a better name for it?”

Tilleran stepped up to the control console checked the readings. “This is amazing. If we can slip a ship into this layer of space, we could make warp drive faster and safer.”

“Not only that, but I hypothesize this layer might just be home to countless species of new lifeforms. We’ve already seen evidence of subspace lifeforms. Why not in deanspace too?”

“This will put the Explorer on the map in a whole new way,” Tilleran said.

“As opposed to the normal, embarassing ways?” asked Conway.

“Exactly,” Tilleran said.

“The Zephram Cochrane prize is mine!” Dean announced, and rushed back to the astrometrics wall. “Now, if you all will excuse me, I have calculations to make. We have to get busy if we’re going to take the Explorer into deanspace.”

“Ahead Dean factor five,” Conway mumbled and headed for the door. “You’ll excuse me, your worship, if I go get clearance for this.”

“Certainly. Just be quick about it.”

“Now wait a minute. Who’s commander of who–”

“Commander,” Tilleran said, and waved Conway out of the room. “Shoo!”


“Nice quarters,” Counselor Peterman said, looking around Holly’s sparse, nearly empty cabin. The walls, and floors, were bare, save a chair and a cardtable.

“I haven’t had time to decorate yet,” said Holly Wilcox. “They were just a week away from turning this room into a unisex executive washroom.”

“That would have been nice.”

Holly sighed and collapsed into her chair. “You’re not helping.”

“I’m sorry,” Peterman said, and paced by the row of windows that looked out onto the blue-black deformed space outside. “I’m just trying to find a way to wrap my mind around what’s happened.”

Holly leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling. “Tilleran has a device that might help you.”

“You’re probably a little upset with Commander Tilleran for coming up with a device like that, aren’t you?”

“No. I’m a lot upset with her, frankly. She took MY Dean away.”

“And she gave us a whole new, better Dean. Isn’t that good?”

“Better by whose standards? So he’s a great scientist. Who cares? He’s not nearly as sweet as he once was. Don’t you remember when he’d come by your office with a bunch of flowers from the arboretum for you?”

“I remember when he brought me poison oak. I itched for two days.”

“It’s the thought that counts!”

Peterman walked over to Holly’s chair and knelt by her. “Holly, Dean was not a whole person before. He was just a braindead grapefruit. Don’t you think that maybe he deserves more than that life?”

“But we were happy.”

“You were happy. Are you sure that he was happy? Don’t you think you might be being a little bit selfish?”

“‘Be being?’”

“That’s the right construction.”

“I think not.”

“This is all besides the point! You’re not thinking of Dean’s needs!”

“You’re right. I might be be.”

“I can’t help you if you’re going to sit there and mock me. Think about your reaction to this, Holly. Do you really have his best interests in mind here?”

“I thought I did,” Holly said thoughtfully.

“Well, think again. I’ve tried to be nurturing to you, and–”

“You did?”

“Yes, I did. And it didn’t seem to work. So it’s time for some tough love, honey. You’re divorced, or anulled or whatever. It’s time to start over again and find someone else.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You’re married.”

“Well, it wasn’t easy finding Andy. Don’t rush anything. Just be yourself. The dating game is a bit different than it was three years ago. For instance, we’re not trapped in the Delta Quadrant.”

“No kidding. I never thought of that.”

“You’re being sarcastic, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”


“Deanspace, huh?” Richards asked, leaning against the master systems display in engineering and studying the scans Dean had provided for him. “That’s unbelievable.”

“And, apparently, the deformed space in this region is our key to entering such a spacial layer,” Lt. Commander Larkin said as she made calculations on the opposite side of the table.

Captain Baxter looked on skeptically, arms folded. “Yeah, but is it safe?”

“I can’t be sure,” Richards said. “I can’t even make sense of some of these calculations. Dean’s math is about ten billion lightyears ahead of anything I can do.”

Baxter looked at Larkin. “But it’s not ahead of Larkin, am I right?”

“You are right,” Larkin said, looking over the information on the screen. “The plan is not without merit or risk. The risk, however, is minimal.”

“So we go ahead with the alterations to the Explorer. I’m all in favor of good PR. Goodness knows we could use it.”

“Yeah, things have been quiet in the few weeks since we saved the quadrant,” muttered Richards.

“Onward and upward,” Baxter said, and headed out of engineering. “Now make it so, you two.”

“He gets one smart guy on the ship and suddenly he thinks he’s Picard.”

“In point of fact, according to my sensor readings on the captain’s scalp, I estimate he will be bald within the next ten to twelve years.”

“Really?”

“Should I tell him, father? Or wait for him to discover it on his own?”

Richards smiled. “Let’s wait.”


“What are you proposing?” Commodore Velara said on Baxter’s desktop viewer. “That you take the Explorer into this new layer of space to investigate it? Without proper testing proedures?”

“Yeah, pretty much. Listen, Velara. We’ve been in risky situations before. I think we have the luck of the stupid, or something. Just let us take a crack at it.”

“And what if the ship is destroyed?”

“We have a future Cochrane prize-winner working on our team, Commodore. We can’t lose.”

“Oh, right. The formerly-brainded individual.”

“That’s our guy.”

“Very well. Proceed with your test, but please, for the love of logic, be careful.”

“Will do, Commodore. I’ll keep you posted.” Baxter switched the viewer off and turned to stare out at the smeary space outside his large oval viewport. “Deanspace, here we come!”


“The engine nacelle alterations you requested will be done in less than a day,” Lt. Hartley said, leaning over the control console in astrometrics as Dean feverishly worked at the wall, tapping in coordinates, plotting courses.

“Excellent. Now please leave.”

“Can I ask you something, Dean?”

“Make it quick.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Why am I pushing for us to explore this new layer of space I discovered? Simple. I wish to advance human cognition and experience. I wish to blaze a trail of scientific discovery across the quadrant. Such a journey begins with one step, this step, Leftenant. That, of course, and I also want to win a medal.”

“Right. Well, that wasn’t what I was asking. Why are you being such an ass to Holly?”

“Not you too, Leftenant. First the captain, then his annoying wife, and even that over-eating doctor. You, at least, I expected to understand the need to be curt.”

“I am all about curt, Dean. But you’re really hurting someone, and all you seem to care about is this stupid discovery of yours.”

“And your point is?”

“Let me tell you something. About a year ago, me, Mirk, and a couple others went back in time to try and stop the Aerostar from going to the Delta Quadrant. I went aboard and tried to sabotage the ship. I got to meet you before you became braindead.”

“I do recall talking to you. That was a future you?”

“Damn right.”

“Curious. Go on.” Dean turned to face Hartley and listened with detached interest.

“And I thought you were a nice guy. Pompous, but nice.”

“I hate to repeat myself, but…your point?”

“My point is, what happened to that guy? Did Tilleran’s device restore everything but your compassion?”

“That’s ridiculous, Leftenant.”

“You think so?” Hartley asked, and turned for the door. “Don’t be so sure. Science is not so exact as you might think.”

“Are you finished?”

Hartley stopped at the door, her back still to Dean. She glanced over her shoulder. “Not quite. Quit calling me ‘leftenant.’”

“I can’t help it. I’m British.”


Holly Wilcox, now Holly Carter again, sauntered down the Explorer corridor in a form-fitting tank dress and high heels, drawing looks from passing crewmembers as she headed for the Constellation Club.

It was evening, and time to search for a new mate. Holly realized it wouldn’t be easy to replace a braindead man. Especially on USS Explorer.

She ducked into the Constellation Club and smiled. Elton John was playing a tune called “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”

“Can I get you anything?” Mirk asked, as Holly passed the bar.

“A man,” Holly whispered.

“Come again?”

“Nevermind.”

Holly walked out into the center of the dance floor, where the usual crowd of singles, Ford, Gellar, Stuart, Sanchez, and Sefelt were all bumping and grinding, for lack of very many women to grind against. Lt. Unlathi was out on the dance floor, waving their tentacles, but the guys pretty much shyed away.

Lt. Lester, a vericose-veined older woman from microbiology, was there swirling her pelvis, but she, likewise, was pretty much avoided by the single guys.

But when Holly got there, all the men took notice. She slinked and slithered, waving her arms up in the air and giving the guys come-hither glances (she’d been watching some scanty programs on vidivision, studying up on how best to do this).

“Holly’s back!” Ford announced to the dancefloor proper. “After a four year absence, she’s back!”

“And raring to go!” Holly announced, and slinked up against Lt. Gellar.

At that time, the doors to the Club opened and Counselor Peterman and Lt. Hartley walked in. They immediately caught sight of Holly and intercepted her.

“Holly!” Peterman announced. “What are you doing? Selling yourself to the highest bidder?”

“Two bars of latinum!” shouted Ford.

“You shut up!” Hartley said, elbowing him and Gellar away from Holly and grabbing her arm. “This is not how you get a man, Holly. What are you trying to accomplish?”

“She’s got a history of abusive relationships. Either with guys who don’t pay enough attention to her, or with guys who are braindead,” Peterman said.

“My relationship with Dean was not abusive,” Holly protested, as Hartley yanked her off the dance floor.

“It sure is now,” said Hartley. “Come on, Holly. We’ll take you back to my quarters and have some good old fashioned girltalk. Show you that you don’t need a man to be complete.”

“But, Megan, weren’t we going spelunking on the holodeck tonight?” Mirk asked as they passed by.

“Oooh, that’s right.”

“And Andy and I have the Executive Spa reserved,” Peterman said. “Maybe tomorrow night?”

“Thanks a lot for nothing, you two,” Holly said, and slumped her way out of the Club.

“Well, that was a screaming success,” muttered Hartley.

“Healing takes time,” Peterman said. “We have to be there for her, because this is her real time of need.” She glaced at the chronometer above the bar. “Whoa. Where did the time go? I have to get to the spa!”

“And I need to get my spelunking gear,” Hartley said, and followed Peterman out of the club.


Late that night, Holly was sitting, sans high heels, curled on the park bench along the promenade of Ship’s Shoppes, staring up at the stars that blazed by the skylight.

“Oh, Dean…why’d you have to go and get so smart?” she said softly.

Just then, she heard the hiss of an opening door, and sure enough, Dean Wilcox stepped through the mall entrance.

“What are you doing here at this late hour?” he asked, strolling up and looking her over as if she were just any other crewmember.

“I’m sulking. Is that okay with you? I’d hate to cramp your style.”

“I have no style to cramp,” Dean said. “I was merely coming here to stretch my legs. I have spent 20 straight hours in that miserable astrometrics lab.”

“Are you making any progress?”

“Oh, yes, significant progress. We shall be ready to enter deanspace by 10 hundred hours tomorrow.”

“Sorry…‘deanspace’?”

“A new layer of space I discovered today. We’re going to go explore it tomorrow.”

“Whoopee for us,” Holly said unenthusiastically.

“And what’s wrong with you?”

“My marraige got anulled today.”

“Oh, you’re still on about that, huh.”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“Well, Ms. Carter, all I can say is that by cutting me free, you have irrevocably changed the face of science, for the better.”

“Whoopee.”

“Well, then, I must get back to work. Chin up, Holly. You’ll find someone else. You have no need for an arrogant bookworm like myself, anyway.”

“That’s the truth.”

“Pardon?”

“Nothing.”


By ten hundred hours the next morning, the ship was abustle with activity in preparation to enter “deanspace.” Dr. Browning had even prepared a special “Deanburger” in her restaurant for a special post-deanspace reception. She wasn’t telling the others much about her secret ingredients, except for the fact that they included lots of mushrooms and cheese.

On the bridge, Baxter, Conway, and Peterman took their customary places in the command arena and all the senior staff were present at their stations, doing final checks to make sure the ship wouldn’t blow up upon entering this new layer of space.

“Warp nacelles are charged and ready,” Lt. Commander Richards said, leaning over the engineering console.

“Shields and inertial dampers are at maximum,” Lt. Commander J’hana said from her station at the rear of the bridge.

“Sciences standing by,” Tilleran said from her station to Baxter’s right. “Dean is down in Astrophysics, ready to take in the new data.”

Lt. Commander Larkin turned at her station. “All decks report ready.”

“Good for the decks,” Conway grumbled. “They all do realize we could get blown to kingdom come.”

“Nonsense, Commander Conway,” Baxter said, leaning back in his chair. “Dean is a great scientist. I don’t see how he could steer us wrong.”

“He couldn’t tie his own shoes before yesterday!”

“That’s irrelevant,” Baxter said. “Lt. Ford. Fire up the engines. Target the spacial deformation ahead of us and take us through.”

“You know, they say suicide is painless,” Ford said with a nervous chuckle, and sent the Explorer flying through into the spacial deformation.

“Chris,” Baxter said, “start up the new warp field.”

“Powering up the nacelles and engaging field…now.”

Light bathed the bridge; Larkin quickly adjusted the screen filters to compensate.

“And here we go into the great unknown,” Baxter said, awestruck, as light bent and streaked on the viewscreen. Counselor Peterman touched his arm.

“This is beautiful, Andy!”

Baxter glanced over his shoulder. “Well? Tactical?”

“We are cruising at impulse power inside deanspace. No problems yet,” replied J’hana.

Richards nodded. “Shields and engines holding. Nacelle charge is five by five.”

“All righty,” Baxter said. “Sensors?”

Lt. Commander Tilleran studied her readings. “Nothing amazing yet. Star clusters are all in the same place. There’s a bit of a rippling. A refracting effect on our active scans. We anticipated that.”

“Will that have an effect on our warp drive?” Conway asked.

“Shouldn’t.”

“Good enough,” Baxter said. “Set a random course. Make our speed warp two to begin with.”

“Right, sir,” Ford said, and punched the Explorer into warp.


Down in Astrophysics, Dean ran from station to station, then back up to the deck facing the widescreen vista of deanspace that surrounded the Explorer, all the time tapping a padd and studying screen after screen of new sensor information.

“Tilleran to Wilcox. What are you getting on sensors?”

“Plenty,” said Dean. “More, nearly, than even I can handle.”

“Would you like help down there?”

“No. I prefer to work alone.”

“Very well. We’re about to punch it up to warp five.”

“Tell Cappy…uh, I mean Captain Baxter to go ahead to warp nine.”

“I’m afraid we can’t, Dean. We have to take this one step at a time.”

“But, Commander…surely you can see that we’re running stable…”

“There’s no room for negotiation on this one, Dean. Just be ready to take in the new sensor data, okay?”

Dean harrumphed. “Oh, very well.” He watched the new influx of data as the Explorer jumped into warp five. Suddenly the sensory buffers in his padd and all through his computer stations began to overflow with data.

“Dean!” Tilleran announced. “Are you seeing all of this? What’s happening?”

“Can’t tell for sure, Commander. Divert more power to sensors, I’ll try to–” Dean’s eyes went wide. “Oh…my… goodness!”

Shapes of all kinds appeared on the widescreen vista. Lithe, beautiful, swimming amoeba-like entities that surrounded the Explorer, as if the vessel was now cruising underwater.

“That’s simply amazing!”

And then a shockwave hit that sent Dean to his knees.


“What just happened?” Baxter asked, crawling back into his chair.

“Deanspace wake from those huge lifeforms swimming around us. Everytime one of them thrashes an appendage it’s like we’re getting hit by a blast wave of some kind,” Tilleran said. “Tilleran to Wilcox. Can you compensate for that wave effect?”

“Stand…by,” replied Dean’s shaky voice.

Baxter gripped his command chair. “That’s it. We’ve got to come out of warp. There are families on this ship to think of. Mr. Ford, if you please…”

Ford tapped his panel. Tapped again. Frantically, tapped again. “Sir! No good!”

Baxter wrenched his head back around to face Richards. “Chris!”

Richards pounded his panel. “Injectors are locked. Nacelles are overloaded. The only way we can stop is if we do a warp core dump, which will stop us so suddenly it will most likely tear us apart!”

“Dean, I want some answers!” Baxter called over the comm.

“I said stand by!”


Explorer rocked again as Dean ran through the darkened red- bathed corridor to engineering. He couldn’t make the adjustments to right the engines and save the ship from astrophysics. The Explorer was crewed by a bunch of abject failures and idiots. Only he could save the day.

“Dean, give me something, anything!” Baxter called over the comm. “We just had hull breaches on decks nine and thirty-seven!”

“Give me time, Captain!” Dean said, holding fast to the corridor bulkhead each time the ship shook. “I can rectify this situation!”

Dean slid out of the Jeffries tube access and out into a smoky engineering section. Kamtezen and Stuart were slumped over the master control console. Dean coughed. Smoke rapidly filled the compartment. Other officers rushed by him to check the warp core. It was venting plasma.

Dean shoved Kamtezen off one side of the master systems display and tapped up a situation report. The underlings would be fixing the injectors. That was just a temporary fix. He needed to shunt some of the excess energy from the warp nacelles and safely collapse the multi-vectored deanfield that surrounded Explorer before the ship was ripped to shreds.

He began tapping on the console.

“Mr. Wilcox!” called Ensign Burke, one of Richards’s engineering functionaries, from somewhere below the warp core platform. “We cleared the injectors. Can you stabilize the nacelles?”

“I am doing that as we speak, you dolt!”

“You don’t have to–”

BLAAAWAAAM!

The blast nearly knocked Dean off his feet. As it was, heat seared the engineering section and the first impulse to reach Dean’s brain was that the warp core had blown. Of course, if that had been the case, Dean’s brain wouldn’t be registering anything and he’d be just plain dead, so he reasoned one of the ancillary power junctions where the engineering team had been working had blown.

“Burke! Lasser! Feinman?” Dean called out into the smoke. No answer.

Just then the turbolift doors opposite the master console opened and Nurse Holly Carter stepped out.

“I heard we had two unconcious engineers down here?” Holly said, hurrying over to see to Stuart and Kamtezen.

“We have larger problems than that, my dear woman,” Dean said, thumbing in the direction of the warp core. “We have two or three possibly dead engineers somewhere below that platform. You should find them.”

Holly pulled out her medical tricorder and scanned the air. “Dean! This compartment is filling with radiation! We can’t be down here very much longer!”

“All the more reason for you to hurry. Now get down there!”

“Okay, okay. You don’t have to be so pushy!”

“Go!!!!” Dean went back to his calculations as Holly hurried down the warp core ladder. He’d had to divert power from another junction just to keep warp power up. And he still had several minutes to go before he could stabilize the nacelles enough to bring the ship out of the celebrated “deanspace.”

Another blast rocked from belowdecks. Dean gripped the master display and studied the readings. Another junction gone. They’d come within a hair’s breadth of losing warp that time. Backups kicked in just in time. He had to get the ship stabilized before everyone was blown sky high. Then, certainly, his work would never be awarded the recognition it deserved.

And that was what was important, wasn’t it?

“They didn’t restore my compassion,” Dean quietly said, as the alarms blared around him. No more comms from the bridge. That meant the comm was dead, or else everyone up there was. “Tilleran didn’t restore my compassion,” Dean said again. “Ms. Hartley was right.”

“Deeeeeeeeaaaaaaaan!” came the panicked voice of Holly Carter from below the warp core.

Dean looked over his work on the nacelles, then at the warp core, back at the nacelle specs, back at the warp core.

“Why am I doing this?” he asked aloud and ran for the warp core ladder.

Dean slid three levels down to find Fienman, Burke, and Lasser either dead or unconcious. “Holly?” he asked.

“Dean!” came a shout from seemingly out of nowhere.

Dean scanned the area, then looked down to fine eight bone- white fingers gripping the edge of the platform. He leaned down to find Holly dangling thirty meters or so above the bottom of the warp core, wincing with the effort of holding on to the edge.

“Blast…knocked me…over…” she wheezed out.

“Hold on,” Dean said. A high-pitched klaxon wailed above him. The ship’s structural integrity was failing. Another few minutes and…blammo.

Dean gripped Holly’s hands and yanked her with all his might up onto the platform. He helped her to her feet and grabbed her in a tight embrace.

“I thought I lost you, Holly.”

“That was close,” Holly admitted. “Dean…I thought you hated me.”

“No. Not hated. Just…didn’t love. Anyway…” Dean pointed down below the warp core railing. “No one deserves that fate,” he said, and turned back to the ladder. “Now if you excuse me, my dear, I have a ship to save.” He climbed halfway up to the next level and then paused to look longingly back down at Holly. “And, Nurse Carter, the next time you see Lt. Hartley, please tell her that Dean says she was wrong. She’ll know what I mean.”

“Oh, about the compassion thing?”

Dean’s face twisted in annoyance. “Yes, the compassion thing. I–”

BLAM!

A junction right behind the ladder blew and Dean flew backwards, arms pinwheeling. He slammed backwards onto the warp core railing, catching it at the small of his back, then flipped over it like a gymnast on uneven bars, and plumetted downward before Holly could grab him. It all happened within just a few seconds.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooo…” Dean’s voice drowned in the distance, then,

THUD!!!!!!!

Holly looked out over the railing and squeezed her eyes shut. “Damn. Not again.”


Captain’s Log,

Supplemental. The trip through deanspace was not without its problems. As a matter of fact, it nearly destroyed us all. Thankfully, Richards and Larkin were able to get down to engineering to reconfigure the warp nacelles to bring us out of warp safely. As it is, the experiment may have cost us one of our dearest minds. Care to guess who?


The whole senior staff eventually ended up in sickbay, pacing the waiting room as Tilleran, Browning, and Holly Carter worked in the adjacent operating room.

Murmurs rose from the crowd about the circumstances around Dean’s predicament, his heroic trip down the warp core levels to save Holly Carter, and his slightly less heroic trip the rest of the way to the bottom of the warp core shaft.

”–saved Holly. Of course he could have had us blown to hell in doing that, if it weren’t for Richards and Larkin.”

”–think it was romantic. After all, someone said he’d lost all his compassion in the mind restoration.”

”–sorry! I thought he did!”

”–fall was nearly the exact same as the one on the Aerostar.”

”–mess was just as bad.”

”–Deanburgers really hit the spot.”

All eyes turned on the door to the operating room as it swished open, and Browning, Tilleran, and Holly Carter emerged, clad in their red operating gowns.

Browning yanked off her gloves. “Someone order me up a sandwich.”

“Well?” Baxter asked, rushing over to the trio. “It’s been two hours. What’s the verdict?”

“The verdict,” Tilleran said, “is–”

“Cappy!” came a voice from within the OR.

“Let me guess,” Conway said tiredly.

“The verdict is braindead,” Holly said. “Again.”

“I’m glad you decided against pawning off his bibs and jammies,” Peterman said brightly. “I guess he’ll be needing those again.”

“Poor Dean,” Dr. Browning said, and hopped onto a biobed, munching a sandwhich. “Can you believe the same exact thing could happen to a guy twice!”

“What about your device?” Lt. Commander Richards asked Tilleran. “Can’t you use it to restore his brain again?”

Tilleran shook her head. “I’m afraid not. The damage is too extensive. We were lucky to get him back at all, in braindead form or not. It’s a credit to his extremely well-developed cognitive functions that he’s not a rootaberry right now.”

“Well, can I go say hi?” Baxter asked.

“I think he’d like that,” Holly said with a warm smile. “Meanwhile, I’m going to go reinstate my marraige.”

Baxter crept into the operating room, where Dean was seated on the operating table, sipping from a glass of root beer and swinging his legs merrily. An unsightly gash was still present on his forehead from his fall and the resultant surgery.

“Cappy!” Dean said excitedly, putting down his drink and clapping as Baxter stepped in. “Cappy Baxter!”

“Easy now, Dean. Easy!” Baxter said. “You took a nasty fall, there. You don’t want to overexert yourself.”

“Dean go BOOM!”

“Yes, Dead did.”

“Dean go boom boom boom!”

“Yes, Dean did.” Baxter reached over to a nearby rack and grabbed a towel. “Here, Dean. Let me get that bit of drool off your chin.” He rubbed Dean’s chin until the cloth was totally soaked. “There we go.” He set the sopping cloth down. “I have to tell you, Dean. I’m proud of you. You discovered a new layer of space and saved the ship all in a couple of days. That’s way more than most braindead guys can say.”

“Deanspace. Deanspaceyspaceyspace!”

“That’s right. That’s very good you remember that,” Baxter said. “Who knows what science will do with your discovery, Dean. You could still even win the Cochrane award.”

“Caca! Caca!’

“Sure. That’s right.”

“Love Cappy, love love love Cappy!” Dean reached forward and wrapped Baxter in a bearhug.

“Uh….yes, well, Cappy love you too, Dean. Cappy love you too.”


NEXT:


Several weeks ago, when Mirk and Hartley had their passionate kiss on the Explorer battle bridge, it stirred something more than just the Maloxian’s libido. It caused his previously inert powers to act up. Since that time, Mirk’s been pressuring Hartley to finish what she started, so he can once again be powerful enough to take on the Critics and Irma. Now that Irma’s back to unleash her wrath on Mirk and the Explorer crew, Hartley’s faced with a tough decision: Does she sleep with Mirk to save the galaxy? To Mirk, and everyone else, it doesn’t seem like such a hard choice. Find out what she decides, next week in


“The Blink of an Eye!”


Tags: vexed