Star Traks: The Next Vexed Thing was created by Anthony Butler. It's a sequel to Star Traks: The Vexed Generation, which in turn is based on Alan Decker's Star Traks, which in turn is based on Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry, who is turning in his grave. Viacom owns Paramount and Paramount owns Star Trek, and all my plans are about to change when I get my master's in publications design, May 24, 2002. Whoopie! Copyright 2001. All rights, and wrongs, 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: 2001

“So you are the infamous Jelo,” Field Supervisor Weyoun said, looking with disdain over the pacing changeling.

Dominion Battlecruiser DBC-42 was the ship assigned to transport Jelo from his holding cell at Outpost 185 to the changeling Homeworld, where, Weyoun was told, he would be judged, although Weyoun didn’t really believe that it was any of his business.

The changeling just stared at Weyoun with a cold, calculating eye that made the Vorta more than a little uneasy.

“Far be it from me to second-guess a god,” Weyoun said carefully. “But, why do you insist on the monkey face?”

Jelo stepped closer to the field. A field that, quite thankfully, separated Jelo from the rest of the battle cruiser.

Weyoun instinctively took a few steps back.

“What is your flaw?” It was the first thing Jelo had said since Weyoun arrived four days earlier.


Jelo looked Weyoun up and down. “All the Weyouns have a flaw. They haven’t gotten the formula quite right ever since the end of the war. What’s your flaw?”

At that, Weyoun smiled. “I am delighted to report that the Dominion has finally corrected that problem. You are looking at a perfect, stable clone.”

“I see,” Jelo said, and went over to the small bench at the back of his room.

“Well, then, I believe I’m needed on the flight deck. Please let me know if you need anything during our trip.”

“A way out,” Jelo said, in a voice that made Weyoun that much more eager to leave the room.


Captain Andy Baxter rolled over in bed and cuddled against his pillow, yawning softly.


With eyes still closed, Baxter reached behind him and felt the empty spot in the bed. “Kelly?” he called out.



Baxter sighed. “Computer, locate Counselor Peterman.”

“Counselor Peterman is returning to work today. Currently, she is down in Space Tastes having breakfast. DO NOT disturb her. It is your day off, and your day to look after your child. Do not deviate from this course, or you will be beamed out into space.”

By the time the computer had finished its diatribe, Baxter’s pillow was firmly pressed against his face. “You done yet, computer?” he said from underneath the pillow.

“That is all,” replied the computer.

“Cute, Kelly,” Baxter mumbled and rolled out of bed.

“Oh, yes,” the computer added. “You have an audio message from Starfleet Command: Admiral Baxter.”

“Put it on,” he said as he pulled on his robe over his Starfleet boxers and t-shirt and began the walk across his quarters to get Steffie.

Over the screaming, he heard:

“Rrr, boy. Hope yer doin fair to mid’lin over there in the Gamma Quadrant. Just wanted ta let you know all is well here in the ol’ Alpha Quadrant. Keep up the good work. Report to me when ya need to, yer Daddy out.”

“Short but sweet. Thanks, Dad,” Baxter said as he ordered coffee out of the replicator and crossed his quarters toward the baby’s room, when the sound of a fist pounding on the door to his quarters caused him to stop in his tracks. He walked over to the door and keyed it open, to find Lt. J’hana, clad in leather and spikes, staring at him with rage in her eyes.

“Your child must be silenced!” she bellowed.

Baxter looked at her askance. “You don’t live next door to me.”

“Yes, but Commander Tilleran does.”

“Oh,” Baxter said thoughtfully. “Well…I’m taking care of it.”

“Be sure that you do, or I will take matters into my own hands!”

“Don’t threaten my kid, J’hana!” Baxter snapped as he keyed the doors closed.

That done, he walked into the baby’s room, where young Steffie lay wailing.

“There now, Daddy’s here,” Baxter said softly, reaching into the crib and picking up his daughter. He held her in his arms, tickling under her chin. “There…who’s daddy’s little girl, huh? Who’s going to be nice and quiet so daddy can go back to sleep?”

“It’s the child’s feeding time,” the computer suddenly intoned.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Baxter replied.

“You will feed the child now!”

Baxter stared at the ceiling. “You shut up! She’s my daughter! You’re just a computer!”

“Feed the child or your cabin will be depressurized in ten…nine…eight…”

“Hey, hold on! I’m going, I’m going!” Baxter mumbled and whisked Steffie out into the main cabin. “Stupid computer,” he grumbled. “A little bit extreme, isn’t it?”

“I was merely joking,” the computer replied, as Baxter grabbed a bottle of freshly squeezed Kelly Peterman out of the mini-fridge under the replicator. The idea of human breast milk still fascinated Baxter: watching that stuff pour out of his wife, knowing his baby would later drink it. Not to mention actually watching the direct transaction from mother to child. That was a whole other story.

“Richards to Baxter,” chimed the comm.

Baxter sat down with Steffie in his lap and gently pressed the bottle up against Steffie’s mouth and looked on with interest as she eagerly drank. “Baxter here. What is it?”

“We just received a distress call from a non-aligned freighter in the Silas system. Should we go check it out?”

“Jeeze, Chris. You’re in command. You decide.”

“Well, I thought I would ask you what you thought. We do have this mineral survey…”

“A distress call overrides a mineral survey,” Baxter said, tilting the bottle a little farther up.

“So we should go see what’s up.”

“Yes,” Baxter said. “Yes, go! And take care of the situation yourself. That’s what they pay you the big bucks for!”

“Sir, the Federation doesn’t use currency.”

“Well, whatever. Just do what you need to do and don’t bother me anymore, okay?”

“Your day with the baby?” Richards’s voice asked.

Baxter sighed. “Yes, how could you tell?”

“It must be my birthday!” Lt. Commander Nell Vansen exclaimed, sitting next to Richards as he slumped back down into the command chair. “Captain Baxter’s miserable. You’re miserable. Tilleran and J’hana look like they haven’t had any sleep. How much better can the day get?” Vansen smiled although she could feel J’hana and Tilleran glowering at her.

“Shut up,” Richards said, thoughtfully staring at the viewscreen.

Lt. Madera looked back at him from the helm. “Well, Commander?”

“Well what?”

“Do we track down the source of the distress call or what? I can’t just sit here all day.”

“Yes, go. Warp eight. Engage, already.”

Vansen smiled at Richards. “I can take over for you if you really want.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Richards snapped. “I can take care of this myself.”

“Yeah,” Vansen said, folding her arms, as the Explorer shot into warp. “We’ll see.”

“Andy must be having a ball,” Janice Browning said, watching Counselor Peterman stuff the last slice of cantaloupe into her mouth as Plato cleared the dishes from their breakfast table. “Careful, honey, those break!”

“I know mom. You dropped four of them this morning,” Plato said, carrying the plates back into the kitchen.

“Rascal,” Browning said wistfully.

“They really do grow up quick,” Peterman said. “He seems so mature. It’s hard to imagine he’s not even two yet.”

“Well,” Browning said. “He is half-changeling. Best guess, he’s the equivalent to about 12 years old in human years.”

“He’ll be a teenager before you know it,” Peterman said with a smirk.

“Don’t remind me,” Browning said. “I like him young and innocent.”

“Pretty soon he’ll be looking at girls.”

“Wonder who he’ll end up with,” Browning mused.

Peterman shrugged. “Beats me. Anyway, it’s time to get to work.”

Browning glanced up at the chronometer on her wall. “Kelly! It’s not even 0900!”

“I have a lot of catching up to do. I’ve been out of work for six weeks!”

“Most mommies take a little more time than that to be with their kids.”

“Well, I’m not most mommies, and besides, I have a manic bipolar guy running my office!”

Browning giggled. “I hear Doctor Ranowat has been taking care of things nicely for you.”

“Don’t YOU start,” Peterman muttered, and stood up. “I’ll be back around lunch time.”

Browning leaned her chin on her hands and watched Peterman go. “I’ll be here,” she said.

Why did nothing interesting ever happen to her anymore?

“There you go, all nice and full of mommy’s fluids,” Captain Baxter said, sitting on his couch with Stephanie on his lap. “How do you like that?” He wiggled her a little bit. “You like that, huh?” She giggled. “Like it when Daddy wiggles you, huh? Are you my little wiggle worm, huh? My little wiggler?”

“BLUAHHHHHHHH!” Steffie explosively vomited white gunk into Baxter’s face. He blinked.

“Well, we know not to do that again.” All that holographic training Peterman had put him through didn’t quite prepare him for all the real-life situations he’d be facing. Explosive vomit being one of them. “Come on, honey. We’ll get you cleaned up. Then we’ll go find something to do that doesn’t involve puking and screaming.”

“There she is,” Commander Richards said, pointing at the squatty, brown ship on the viewscreen.

“She’s seen better days,” Vansen remarked.

“In point of fact, she has been blasted within an inch of her life,” J’hana observed from tactical.

“By what?” Richards asked, glancing back.

“Antiproton cannons, by the look of it,” J’hana said. She looked at Tilleran, who nodded assent.

“Dominion weaponry,” Tilleran said.

“Well, that’s not kosher,” Richards said.

After a few moments passed, Vansen finally spoke up. “Well? What do you want to do?”

“Me?” Richards asked. “Oh. Me. I guess we should send an away team over there.”

“You guess, huh?” Vansen asked.

“No, I don’t guess, I know,” Richards snapped back. “And furthermore, I’m sending you over there.”

“Oooh, now he’s mad,” Vansen said, standing. “I’m quaking in my boots. Tilleran, J’hana. With me.”

“Better take an engineer,” Richards called over his shoulder. “That ship might have structural issues.”

“Thanks for the pointer. Anything else you’d like to add before we go?”

“You’re a bitch.”

“I’ll take that under advisement.” She looked at Tilleran and J’hana as they followed her into the turbolift. “Martha…George. Let’s go.”

Counselor Peterman took a deep breath and pressed the door chime. She felt silly, chiming at her own office door, but the computer had told her that Dr. Ranowat was in there, and he was probably still under the assumption that it was his office.

The computer also told her that Stepanie had just vomited all over the captain, which Peterman couldn’t help but find amusing. Being able to get the computer to do your bidding was one of the perks of spending lots of time counseling the ship’s Chief of Operations.

Peterman’s thoughts were interrupted when she realized that no one had answered her door yet.

Not for the first time, Peterman had a fleeting second thought. Maybe it was too soon. She’d only been with her newborn baby for a few weeks. Maybe Janice was right. She was pushing things. She turned to go, just as the door to her office slid open.

The calm visage of Jarvay Ranowat stared back at her from the doorway. “Ah, Counselor! How may I assist you? All is well with the little one, I hope?”

Peterman turned around to face Ranowat, fumbling with her fingers. “Well, yes.”

“Still wearing the maternity outfit, I see.”

“Actually, this is the post-partum outfit. They’re three sizes smaller,” Peterman said, flapping the loose tunic that fell to below her waist. “And I’m sure I’ll only need this for another couple weeks. I’m on an intensive exercise regime. Something Richard Simmons gave me.”

“I’m not familiar with his work,” Ranowat said, then stepped back, gesturing Peterman inside. “Oh, how rude of me. Come on in. Have a seat, relax. Tell me how you’re doing.”

Peterman timidly stepped into her office.

It was the exact same way she left it. Everything in its place. The fainting couch, the interviewing chair, Charlie’s toybox, her oft-repaired Betty Boop statuette. She smiled. Ranowat had been taking care of business nicely.

“Thank you, Doctor,” Peterman said, as Ranowat walked around behind her desk. HER desk.

“Please, sit!” he said merrily.

Peterman gingerly sat in the seat across from HER desk. She considered the fainting couch but decided against it. “I hope my patients haven’t been giving you too much trouble.”

“Your…oh, yes. You mean the Explorer crew. No, they’ve been a delight.”

“Good. Well, I know some of them can be a little trying.’

Ranowat giggled politely. “They do have their moments.”

“I want my job back,” Peterman said quickly.

And suddenly all was quiet. Ranowat looked down at the padd he’d been working on, then back up at Peterman. “Your job.”

“Yes. I want it back.” She smiled weakly. “Busy busy busy. Need to get back into the swing of things. Can’t sit around and parent forever, can I? Nope, nope. I’m a working mom!”

“Of course,” Ranowat said serenely, and stood up. “Please call me if you have any questions on my notes. Have a most excellent day.”

Peterman watched Ranowat drift out of her office, her mouth gaping.

That was way too easy.

“Ideas, people,” Lt. Commander Vansen said as she stared around the bridge of the ruined freighter.

“Everyone is dead,” J’hana said flatly.

“Bravo, J’hana,” Vansen muttered. “You have keen detective skills. I can see why you’ve been stuck in the same job for five years. How about telling me HOW they died.”

“In the standard way,” Tilleran said, standing up from her crouch. She’d been studying one of the bodies. She wasn’t sure what race they belonged to, but they had very pretty, silken green hair and almost no facial blemishes of any kind. Except, of course, for the lacerations caused by whoever had broken into the freighter.

“Meaning?” Vansen yawned.

“Meaning,” J’hana said, surveying the surroundings. “Meaning the freighter’s shields were destroyed, and a force of very angry fellows came aboard and slaughtered everyone.”

“With bladed weapons, no less,” Tilleran said, clicking her tongue. “Quite brutal.”

“What kind of blades?” Vansen asked.

“My detective skills couldn’t possibly compare to yours,” J’hana growled. “Why don’t you tell us.”

Vansen sighed and knelt next to one of the bodies. The captain, it looked like. She checked one of the slash marks. “Well, let’s see. It seems like…oh sh**.”

“Jem’Hadar,” J’hana said. “Yes, I reached the same conclusion. We should team up sometime.” When the Andorian said that, she glanced at Vansen’s rear end with barely hidden lust. Then she caught Tilleran’s gaze and immediately stopped looking. “At any rate, Jelo’s rogue Jem’Hadar have struck again, or else the whole Dominion’s gone evil again.”

“That would be a problem,” Vansen said. “Let’s call it in. And someone find Ensign Pasquale.”

Three decks down, Ensign Wallace Pasquale, of engineering, was inspecting a busted power coupling.

“Demote me to gamma shift, will she, that bitch,” he muttered. “Who does she think she is? Damn Hartley. Thinks just because she’s marrying an omnipotent lifeform makes her so special. Makes her think she can just push everybody around. Well, I’ll show her. Yeah, I’ll show her.”

There was a sudden “THUNK” sound, somewhere just a little ways down the dimly lit corridor from where Pasquale was thinking. He saw a dark figure looming in the shadows, barely visible against the blackness of the corridor.

“Lieutenant J’hana? Commander Vansen?” Pasquale asked, clearing his throat. “Now, then. I don’t want you to misunderstand. I like Lieutenant Commander Hartley fine, I just, um, I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately, and that guy in the counselor’s office is a first-rate lunatic, I–um. You’re not Vansen are you?”

With a trembling hand, Pasquale slapped his combadge.

“Pasquale to Vansen. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“Judging by the pitch of that scream, I estimate he has about thirty seconds to live,” J’hana said calmly, leading the way down the down-ladder and marching along the corridor leading to Pasquale’s last known position.

“Way to be optimistic,” Vansen said.

“Be on alert,” J’hana said, as her wrist beacon danced across the walls and she rounded the corner, phaser at the ready. “The Jem’Hadar can make themselves invisible. There may still be some aboard.”

“You think so?” Vansen grumbled.

When they reached Pasquale, J’hana stopped dead in her tracks, causing Vansen and Tilleran to nearly bump into her.

“It’s a distinct possibility,” J’hana said, looking at the Jem’Hadar who loomed over the inert body of Ensign Pasquale.

“Either he’s attempting open heart surgery or we have a very big problem,” Tilleran said quietly.

“No problems here at all,” J’hana said, raising her phaser, which the Jem’Hadar kicked out of her hand in a quick, fluid move.

She then swept her leg in a wide arc, knocking the Jem’Hadar off his feet. Careful to avoid tripping over Pasquale, she hurled herself across the corridor, her fingers clawlike, digging into the Jem’Hadar’s neck and smashing him into the bulkhead. “I…SAID…NO…PROBLEMS… HERE…AT…ALL!” she bellowed as she beat the Jem’Hadar into oblivion.

“And a master interrogator,” Vansen said, looking down at Pasquale. She knelt beside him and felt his neck…or what was left of it. “Great. Everybody’s dead.”

“I think it is an open and shut case, Commander,” J’hana said, letting the now dead Jem’Hadar drop to the deck. “The Jem’Hadar came on board and killed everyone.”

“It’s not quite that simple,” a voice said from somewhere down the corridor.

Vansen sighed. “Great. Just great. As if this mission couldn’t be any MORE complicated.”

“You recognize the voice?” Tilleran said, looking to Vansen.

“Yeah,” Vansen said heavily, as J’hana waved her beacon around in the shadows, till it hit on the figure of a male Starfleet officer in a pretty badly tattered uniform, looking battered, bloody, and not in the least bit disheveled.

“Commander Samuel DiSalvo,” Vansen said with a groan. “First officer of the USS Pathfinder, minion of Lucille Baxter, general pain in the ass, and…my husband.”

“Perhaps we were meant to be with one another after all.”

“It would seem I have no other choice. You just killed my new boyfriend.”

“Sorry about that. Would you like to go out and have a glass of blood wine?”


Captain Baxter sighed as he rocked Stephanie in his arms, watching his HoloVision. Since the Explorer had been in the Gamma Quadrant, he’d been forced to watch his reruns. He knew exactly what would happen. Sovok and Kasatria would get back together again, stab each other, and eventually, break up again. So predictable. Yet still he watched.

“Gooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” said Steffie.

Baxter nodded. “Well put. Let’s see if there’s anything else on…” Baxter was about to order the computer to load up a module from another network. Maybe to the Associated Worlds Network, something more cerebral, when his combadge chirped.

“Richards to Baxter.”

“What? Chris, I’m trying to watch…” He thought a moment, looking down at his daughter. “To watch Steffie crawl for the first time. And you’re interrupting!”

“I think you’d better come to Sickbay, Andy.”

“Why. Is it time for my physical again already?”

“Umm…no. We found something on that freighter. Er, someone.”


“Just come to Sickbay.”

Baxter sighed, scooping Steffie up. He felt something warm and wet at the base of her diaper. “Ummm…be there in just a few minutes, Chris!”

“Get this guy twenty cc’s of oxanon, stat! Put him on a bioscan, check for any internal abrasions. I’m waiting on those test results!” a vaguely British voice echoed through Sickbay.

“Who are you talking to?” Dr. Holly Wilcox asked, walking out into Sickbay, where Nurse Christina Chadway pounded Sam DiSalvo’s chest–much, it appeared, to the patient’s amusement.

“Umm,” Chadway said, looking around the empty sickbay. “Guess I was just reminding myself of what I have to do.”

“Ah, to be a young nurse in training again,” Holly said with a grin. “Look, you don’t have to beat the guy to death. We haven’t had to use that maneuver for centuries. And even when we did, we usually waited until the patient’s heart stopped.”

“Oh, right,” Chadway said, smacking herself in the head.

“I’ll take over,” Holly said, looking over DiSalvo, and glancing up at his bioreadings. “You’ve been stabbed several times, but the good news is, it looks like you’ll pull through, Commander.”

“That’s a relief,” DiSalvo grunted. “Where is everybody?”

Wilcox looked around. “If you mean the command crew…I think they’re talking things over.”

“I need to see the…” DiSalvo chuckled, and blood dripped out of his mouth. “Captain.”

“Let’s just take care of that mild coughing up blood problem and I’m sure Captain Baxter will be right along.”

Suddenly, the doors to Sickbay opened up and Baxter, flanked by Vansen and Richards, swooped in. Baxter was carrying what appeared to be an infant.

“Okay, Commander DiSalvo, obviously you came a long way to give me a message. Spit it out.”

“Don’t I get a hug?” DiSalvo grunted.

“Don’t be a smartass, Sam,” Vansen snapped. “Tell us what we need to know.”

“‘Sam’?” Baxter asked, glaring at Vansen.

Vansen looked at DiSalvo. “The Commander and I…are married.”

“Separated,” DiSalvo spat…literally, nearly hitting Nurse Chadway. “We’d be divorced, too, if she’d ever get around to finishing the paperwork.”

“Gladly, if you’d ever concede the house on Io is mine,” Vansen shot back.

“Ahh,” Baxter said, juggling Steffie. “Now I understand. Hmm. And I don’t really care. Just tell me what you’re doing aboard a destroyed non-aligned freighter deep in the Gamma Quadrant.”

“Looking for you,” DiSalvo said, sitting up with a slight wince.

“He’s not going to be lucid for much longer,” Holly said. “He’s lost a lot of blood.”

“I’ll get some more. Stat!” Nurse Chadway said and rushed into the other room.

Holly sighed. “Captain, get your Q and A session out of the way so I can work on Mister DiSalvo.”

“Right, Doctor,” Baxter said, and turned to DiSalvo. “Well?”

DiSalvo took a deep breath. “You’ve been lied to.”

Baxter rolled his eyes. “What else is new?”

“Fake messages!” Lt. Commander Hartley exclaimed. “You mean we haven’t REALLY been talking to Starfleet these last six weeks?”

“Eight weeks, apparently,” Vansen said, standing at the front of the conference room.

Baxter felt uneasy with her standing behind him as he sat. He wished she’d just sit down. Whatever. He folded his hands on top of the table. “Yes,” he said.

“Apparently, someone has taken over the transceiver array on this side of the wormhole. They’re catching all of the messages going through to us and replacing them with fakes.”

“Why?” asked Lt. Sefelt.

“Good question,” Baxter said. “I think someone is trying to manipulate things so that if something happens to us, we can’t call the Federation for help.”

“No. Why am I here?”

Baxter sighed. “Because you’re a senior officer. Now shut up.” He looked at a padd. “According to our discussion with Commander DiSalvo, my mother suspected something odd about our ‘replies,’ to Starfleet and without anybody’s consent, sent DiSalvo over on a covert mission to find out what the hell was going on. He didn’t make it to the transceiver. He was captured by a race called the Duvache, and they tried to auction him off to a group of rogue Jem’Hadar. The rogue Jem’Hadar, not interested in bargaining, killed everyone.”

“And DiSalvo is still here because…” said J’hana.

“Because, apparently, he has the uncanny Starfleet knack of being able to hide.”

“I thought we were the only Federation personnel permitted to be in the Gamma Quadrant right now,” Richards said.

“Hence the ‘covert’ part of the mission, and the ‘without consent’ part,” Vansen said. “Try to follow along, Richards.”

“Bite me.”

“People, people,” Baxter said, holding up his hands. “We have a real problem here. We need to go to the transceiver and stop who or what is interfering with signals being sent through the wormhole. That’s our only contact with the Alpha Quadrant and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some scheming anti-treaty son of a bitch get in the way of it!”

“Wahhhhhhhhhhhh!” came the sound from the bassinet in the corner of the conference room.

“Now you’ve done it,” J’hana said. “You’ve gone and woken the baby.”

“Ah, damn,” Baxter mumbled. He looked out at the rest of the group. “Richards, lay in a course for the wormhole. Vansen, you contact the Dominion. Tell them what we’ve learned, and ask them where the hell our new Vorta is. It’s been weeks.”

Vansen and Richards nodded and left the room. Baxter looked out at the rest of his officers: J’hana, Tilleran, Hartley, Sefelt.

“The rest of you. Work, or something. Meeting adjourned.”

“There’s no place like home,” Jelo said in soft tones, looking out on the rippling lake of goo as two Jem’Hadar flanked him, and Weyoun stood several paces off, looking complacent.

“I am glad I am not in your position, Mister Jelo,” Weyoun said. “Being judged by the Founders. An awesome event, to be sure. How uncertain you must feel.”

“Actually, I feel rather certain.”

Weyoun raised an eyebrow. “Hmm? Certain of what.”

“Certain you won’t make it off this planet alive.”

“Ahh, just the sort of reply I’ve come to expect from you, Jelo. Tinged with melodrama. Well, I assure you, it is you who will not be leaving this planet alive.” He draped his hands behind his back. “But we leave that to the Founders.”

“Because the Founders are wise in all things,” Jelo said, finishing Weyoun’s thought.

“Exactly,” Weyoun said.

“Kill him,” Jelo said.


And the two Jem’Hadar withdrew their weapons and fired simultaneously, vaporizing Weyoun.

“We were wondering when you would get around to doing that,” one Jem’Hadar said. “This ‘kinder, gentler’ Dominion act is shameful.”

“You don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Jelo said. “Now go up to the ship. Kill any Jem’Hadar who isn’t with us, and secure the flight deck.”

“You are wise in all things,” one of the Jem’Hadar said, and he clapped a control on his wrist. Both Jem’Hadar dematerialized.

Jem’Hadar then looked out over the rippling waves upon waves of changeling goo and smiled. “Good evening, friends. I hope you’ve missed me. Not to worry, I’m back, and as of this moment I am taking control of the Dominion.”

Jelo waited for reaction. When he got none, he shrugged. “The silent treatment will only work for so long. And don’t think you can simply overpower me. I have more faithful Jem’Hadar, more ships, than you’ve ever realized. You all are so busy with your peace footing you never even saw this coming. I’m embarrassed to even call myself one of you.” He chuckled. “But, as I said, you would do well not to attack me. I have ships pulling into orbit as we speak, and they are training their antiproton cannons on your planet’s surface. One word from me and there are craters instead of lakes. Do you all understand? Or would you prefer I linked with you? HA! What a joke!”

Still, no response. Jelo walked over and knelt by the pool of goo. He jabbed his hand in it. “Hmm. Not quite the right consistency. It’s more gloppy than I remember it. Thicker. Kind of like…”


Jelo turned, shocked, to see a fellow changeling standing by an outcropping of rocks on the little island. “Odo!”

“But only a hologram,” Odo said. “Let me cut to the chase, as the humans say. We’re not the fools you take us for. We knew you would try something like this, and we knew this would be the only way to draw out all your allies. The Great Link has been moved…” Odo sighed. “Again, to yet another secret location. The only way you will make it there is in custody. You will be judged.”

“I don’t need to be judged,” Jelo fired back. “I know all about myself.”

“So you’re refusing judgment?”

“That’s right.”

“Then we will destroy you before you can ever make it to the Link.”

“Strong words. Do you really know how much of your fleet is loyal to you?”

Odo thought about that. “Enough.”

“We will see about that.”

“Yes. We shall.” And Odo disappeared.

Jelo smashed his fist into a small pillar of rock, crushing it. “Jelo to Rogue-42. Beam me up NOW! We have a small change in plans!”

“All hands, this is Captain Baxter. You’ve all been lied to, apparently. Any contact you’ve received from the communications array near the wormhole has been falsified, going back about eight weeks. Take this under advisement, and know that we are doing everything in our power to find out what is going on. No need to panic, just go about your normal daily lives as our crew attempts to make sure none of you die unnecessarily.”

“It’s always something.” Peterman rolled her eyes at Baxter’s latest address as she strolled back to her office, fresh from an afternoon workout in the ship’s gymnasium. She was constantly surprised by the fact that it was rarely used. So much nice equipment, all free for her to use as much as she wanted. No long lines, no annoying people trying to talk to her as she worked out.

Peterman squeezed her tummy. Still a little bit to work off. Not that it would be a problem. She was adept at staying in shape. She was no Janice Browning, of course, but she figured her birthweight would go away after a week or so.

Feeling refreshed after her workout and shower, Peterman turned down the corridor toward her office. There was still a lot of work to be done. Of the files she’d looked at so far, it appeared Ranowat had been abusive to several of her patients. And his diagnoses often made no sense. Stranger still, he was incredibly nice to other patients…almost disturbingly so.

Peterman decided she would contact a few of the patients in question as she keyed open the door to her quarters.

When the door opened, Peterman gasped.

“We are a little busy right now, Counselor, so this better be good,” Lt. J’hana said, as she walked with Peterman back to her office. “Do you realize we’re at Yellow Alert?”

“What’s the difference?” Peterman asked distractedly.

“My sidearm is now set to kill instead of stun.”

“That’s good to know,” Peterman said, as they arrived at her door.

“So…what seems to be the problem?” J’hana chuckled, looking down at Peterman’s still-bloated tummy. “‘Little’ lady?”

Peterman gritted her teeth and keyed open the door. “This.”

J’hana looked around at Peterman’s office, hissing with satisfaction. “This is quite excellent.”

“It’s not excellent at all! He wrote ‘die bitch die’ in blood on my walls!”

J’hana rubbed her chin. “I wonder if it’s human blood.” She pulled out her security tricorder and began scanning. “Hmmm. No such luck. Just goat blood.”

“GOAT!” Peterman cried. “He got to Nanny!”

“Now, just hold on a second,” J’hana said. “Who’s ‘Nanny’?”

“The pet goat I got from the Terran Animal Breedery on Disar Seven just before we left for the Gamma Quadrant.”

J’hana put her tricorder back in its holster and turned to brace her hands on Peterman’s shoulders. “Get it together, Counselor. We don’t know that Nanny has been hurt yet. If he has, you can file criminal…uh, goat assault charges. Until that time, though, let’s just continue taking inventory of what the good doctor has done to your quarters.”

“Shredded my couch,” Peterman mumbled, tears dribbling down her cheek.

“There now,” J’hana said, petting Peterman’s hair. “It’s okay. It’s just a couch.”

“Flipped over my desk.”

“Just a desk,” J’hana said soothingly.

“Set fire to my Fangosian rug.”

“Oh, you poor thing.”

“And my Betty Boop statue…”

“Oh, no.” J’hana scowled. “Not the Betty Boop statue.”

“Destroyed beyond recognition.”

“There, there,” J’hana said, pulling Peterman into her arms. “Everything will be okay. I’m going to take care of everything.”

Peterman sniffed. “Why are you being so nice, J’hana?”

“Because I want to mate with you,” J’hana said soothingly into Peterman’ s ear.

“Ugghh!” Peterman pulled back from J’hana. “What’s with you lately, J’hana? It’s like you’re having some kind of bisexual Andorian pon’farr!”

“That,” J’hana said, smiling weakly, “is absurd. Now why don’t I just go track down Doctor Ranowat for–”

“Baxter to J’hana. We just went to Red Alert. Get up to the bridge. Now.”

“That was Steffie crying in the background,” Peterman said..

“Don’t worry. I’m sure he has the situation under control,” J’hana said. “Excuse me…”

Peterman shrugged. “I’ll just take matters into my own hands, then. Have Andy call me if he needs help with Steffie.”

“I assure you, that’s my top priority,” J’hana rumbled, and took off down the corridor.

“…doesn’t know where we are, and I’d like to keep it that way until we figure out how many rogue Jem’Hadar he actually has working for him.”

J’hana saw Odo on the viewscreen as she walked onto the bridge.

“Nice of you to join us,” Baxter muttered.

“I was dealing with YOUR wife’s issues,” J’hana replied.

“Captain…” Odo said, his face creased with concern.

“Oh, right,” Baxter said, rocking Steffie on his knee and adjusting the formula bottle in her mouth. “We have to figure out what to do about Jelo.”

“I’m hoping I can rely on your support. Captain Dwanok has already pledged his ship, and we’re asking him to…”

“Of course we will,” Baxter said, looking to Richards at his right and Vansen at his left. “That’s the whole reason we’re here. To keep the Dominion whole.”

“And peaceful,” Richards whispered to Baxter.

“Whole and peaceful. Right. Both those things.”

“Please direct your ship to the Tal-Anari system. There we are assembling a fleet to protect our secret hiding place from Jelo.”

“Wouldn’t it be smart to keep your fleet away from where your people are hiding, Mister Odo?” Vansen asked.

“We aren’t hiding. And we aren’t in the Tal-Anari system.”

“Where are you then?” asked Baxter.

“That’s classified. For obvious reasons.”

“Obviously.” Baxter took a deep breath. “Okay. We’re on our way.” He nodded at Madera at helm.

“We’re sending the coordinates to you now, Captain,” Odo said. “Good luck.”

“Right. Oh…one more thing.”


“When are we getting our new Vorta?”

“Your new Vorta is being withheld, pending an investigation into his mysterious death.” Odo seemed nervous. “It’s just a procedural thing, of course. No hard feelings.”

Baxter frowned. “Right.”

“Anyway…Odo out.”

Baxter sighed. “All ahead warp nine, to the coordinates Odo gave us.”

“So we’re not going to the mouth of the wormhole?” J’hana asked. “What about the tampering with the communications array?”

“It’s kind of academic now,” Baxter said. “Apparently, Jelo escaped from the Dominion and is now trying to stage an insurrection.”

“But it’s just…him,” Richards said.

“And at least a thousand Jem’Hadar rogues,” Vansen countered.

“Still,” said Richards.

“And there could be more,” Vansen said.

“There, all nice and full, sweetie,” Baxter said, pulling the bottle of formula out of Steffie’s mouth and setting it in the cup-holder on the arm of his chair. “Good girl.” He looked at Richards and Vansen. “Were you two talking about something?”

“Nevermind,” muttered Vansen.

“So are we at war?” Browning asked, tickling Steffie’s chin as she sat in her little bassinet on the table in her restaurant, and Baxter ransacked the kitchen.

“I don’t know,” Baxter called from inside the kitchen. “It’s too early to tell. It all hinges on how much support Jelo has.”

Browning nodded. “Do you think that’s a lot?”

“Hope not.” Baxter emerged from the kitchen, a bowl in one hand and a fork in the other. “Can I have this spaghetti?”

“Well, it was supposed to be for tonight’s buffet, but I guess that’s canceled.”

Baxter grinned and dug into the bowl of spaghetti with his fork. “It is now.”

“How are things with your little bundle of joy?”

Baxter sat down next to Browning, putting his bowl on the table next to Steffie’s carrier. “Just great. I didn’t realize this was ‘take your daughter to work day,’ but I’m enjoying it.”

“I bet you’re annoying the hell out of Vansen.”

“Undoubtedly,” Baxter grinned, shoving a forkful of spaghetti into his mouth. “Man, I’m famished. What is it? Seventeen hundred?”

“Thirteen hundred.”

“Well, whatever,” Baxter said, continuing to eat. “Hey, where’s Plato?”

“In class,” Browning said. “It’s Wednesday.”

“Oh. Right.”

“You really have been out of sorts since the birth.”

“Babies are…” Baxter stopped chewing and looked at Steffie. “Disorienting.”

“No kidding,” Browning said with a smile. “You’ll get used to it.”

“Yeah, but my baby is going to be a baby for a couple years, not three months like yours.”

“It was four months.”

“Whatever.” Baxter licked his lips as he slid the last strand of spaghetti in his mouth.

“You ate the whole bowl!”

“Hmm. So I did. Baby-raising takes a lot out of a guy.” Baxter belched. “Mmm that was good. Okay, I’m officially ready to go into battle.” He picked up Steffie’s carrier by its handle and walked toward the restaurant’s exit.


Baxter turned around. “Yeah?”

Browning sighed. “Just leave her here. It’s slow around here today. You have political and intergalactic turmoil to deal with. I’ll take her.”

Baxter beamed. “You mean it?”

“Yeah. What are godmothers for?”

Baxter walked back to the table and set the carrier down. “You’re the best, Janice, you know that?” He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “The absolute best. Okay, off to fight evil. Later!”

Browning smiled, tickling under Steffie’s chin. “Yup.”

“Now I have to move all the shifts around, and figure out who’s going to work on tomorrow’s injector diagnostic,” Lt. Commander Megan Hartley said, as she walked down the corridor with her fiancee, a semi-omnipotent Maloxian named Mirk.

“That’s awful,” Mirk said. “And all because of one dead guy.”


“Poor Pasquale.”

Hartley thought about that. “Yeah, I guess that’s kind of sad too.”

“Are there going to be services?”

“I don’t really think anybody’s given it much thought,” Hartley said honestly. “As a matter of fact, the body’s…”


“Ah, jeeze, they left the body back on the freighter. We’ll have to go back and pick it up after this whole Dominion crisis is over.”

“Real nice,” Mirk muttered.

“Well…” Hartley began, but stopped as soon as she saw a tall, copper-skinned man dashing down the corridor, eyes wild with fear. “Doctor Ranowat?” Hartley’s head swiveled as the man sped by.

Seconds later, a somewhat-dumpy-looking Counselor Peterman huffed past Mirk and Hartley.

“He…took blood from…my goat!” Peterman said breathlessly, chasing Ranowat into a Jefferies tube.

Moments later, a goat wearing a dog collar and a grey bandage on its neck scampered in the same direction as Peterman and Ranowat, bleating loudly. Unfortunately, instead of squeezing into the hatch, the goat slammed into the bulkhead and fell unconscious to the deck.

Mirk and Hartley watched, then looked at each other.

“So, you were saying?” Mirk asked.

“Look who’s back among the living,” Vansen said under her breath as Commander Sam DiSalvo stepped out onto the bridge of the Explorer.

“Need an extra hand?” DiSalvo asked, stepping down to join Baxter, Vansen, and Richards in the command area.

“Nope,” Baxter said. “Your wife, or ex, or whatever, took our last available seat.”

“So like you, Nellie,” DiSalvo chuckled.

“Nellie?” Richards whispered to Baxter, who shrugged.

“Make yourself useful and go mop the hangar deck,” Vansen snapped at DiSalvo.

“Oh, still hurt about the fact that I’m getting our collection of Andorian impressionist paintings?”

“Zharnt!” J’hana cursed. “Those are valuable. He has screwed you badly, Vansen. He’s…hmm…screwed…”

“You stay out of this!” Vansen ordered, then looked back at DiSalvo. “Those paintings are MINE!”

“Excuse us,” Baxter said, stepping in between Vansen and DiSalvo. “We’re kind of in the middle of something here.”

“Then get him off my…” Vansen corrected herself. “Our bridge.”

Baxter looked at DiSalvo, who stood a head taller than him, and stared down at him with contempt. “You don’t intimidate me, buddy.”

“Yes I do. Your mom told me.”

Baxter gulped. “Damn her! Don’t I have any secrets with her?”

“Your bridge crew might want to know about the tea party incident, too,” DiSalvo said.

“See what he does?” Vansen said. “He just ruins people’s lives wherever he goes.”

“Sounds like you two made a nice couple,” Richards said.

“People!” Baxter said. “We need to get it together here.”

“Sooner, rather than later,” J’hana said, looking down at her panel. “I’m showing a Dominion battlecruiser closing on our location…fast…”

“Friendly?” Richards asked.

Suddenly a blast pounded into the Explorer

“Forget I asked,” Richards said, gripping his chair.

“Sit down,” Baxter told DiSalvo.


“There,” Baxter said, pointing at the Engineering station. “And try to stay out of the way.”

“Gladly,” DiSalvo said. “Just think of me as an observer. An observer who will report everything back to your mother.”

“If we make it back,” Vansen said wryly, as another blast rocked the Explorer.

“Shields down to 70 percent,” J’hana called.

“What are you waiting for? Fire back!” Baxter ordered.

“Hail them,” Richards said.

“Why, so they can taunt us?” Baxter asked.

“It would at least help us to figure out what their goal is.”

“I think that’s pretty clear.”

“Not necessarily!”

“No response to hails,” J’hana said, making the point moot.

Baxter stared at the ceiling. “Ay, yi yi. Any other ships in the area?”

“Dwanok’s ship, the Devagh II, is two parsecs away,” Tilleran said. “Closing on our position.”

“As is a second battlecruiser,” J’hana chimed in.

“Is that one friendly?”

“Are we that lucky?” J’hana asked, as blasts continued to hit the Explorer.

“Evasive maneuvers, Lieutenant Madera. Keep them off our flanks!” Baxter said, gripping his chair. “J’hana, reroute available power to shields and weapons. Lieutenant Sefelt, cancel the yoga class on deck ten!”

“Yes, sir!” Sefelt said, just glad to have something to do.

Baxter watched fearfully as the two battlecruisers angled after them on the viewscreen, firing.

“One we could take, but not two,” Vansen told Baxter. He’d already figured that.

“Any nebulas, black holes, pulsars, gas giants?” Baxter asked, looking to Tilleran, who shook her head.

“Have we used up every creative trick on the books by now?” Richards said. Most everybody nodded.

“Damn! J’hana, keep firing!” Baxter called out.

“Our shields are down to forty.”

“Put out a distress call, J’hana,” Richards said. “See if Dwanok can speed up his approach.”

“A wise choice,” J’hana said, punching in the commands.

Baxter held onto the command chair as the Explorer rocked. “Susan…keep evading!”

“I’m evading, I’m evading!” Madera called out. “What more do you want me to do?”

“Keep us from exploding!” Vansen suggested.

“Good news,” J’hana said. “Dwanok will be here in forty minutes.”

“Excellent,” said Baxter.

“The bad news is, our shields are now down to twenty percent.”

“Boost them!”

“With what?”

Baxter rubbed his eyes, fighting to try and figure out a new strategy, a something that would get his crew out of this mess. They were being attacked from both sides by a markedly superior foe and…

“One battlecruiser destroyed!” J’hana called out triumphantly.


“Shields are down!”

“Damn! Stop doing that to me,” Baxter moaned. He looked at Richards.

“Boarding parties,” Vansen said, voicing their unspoken concern.

“Weapons, everybody,” Richards said, standing up and walking up to the rear storage locker.

“All hands, this is J’hana. Prepare for intruders. Try to die on your feet, with a shred of honor, if you can manage!”

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been boarded,” Baxter said, as Richards tossed him and Vansen phaser rifles.

“You people aren’t cut out for hand to hand combat,” DiSalvo grunted as Richards tossed him a phaser rifle. J’hana reached under her station and pulled out twin, meter-long Andorian fighting blades. “Okay, maybe some of you are, but for the most part…”

“We may seem incompetent,” Richards said, “but we can take care of ourselves.”

“They’re like that kid on the playground who was smaller than the bullies, but won the fights because he bit and scratched,” Vansen explained.

“Ah,” said DiSalvo, as beams of light began coalescing on the bridge.

“Here we go!” Richards cried out, as a Jem’Hadar ran screaming at him. He blasted.

Counselor Peterman lept out of the Jefferies tube exit hatch and bolted after Ranowat. “Come back here, you psychopath! I want to capture you, punish you, then rehabilitate you!”


“You need to get back on your meds!”

“I refuse!”

“Just try to listen to me.”

“Well…aww…I just want to be LOVED!”

“Jeeze…” Peterman muttered as Ranowat ducked through double doors into just the place she feared he’d go.

“The arboretum,” Peterman muttered, and chased Ranowat in.

As she pursued the crazy doctor into the foliage, she heard rumbling like thunder. “But the storm isn’t supposed to happen until oh-four-thirty!”

Peterman stared up at the overhead windows and saw the wing of a Dominion battlecruiser arc by, and weapons fire rain down on her ship. About that time, Red Alert klaxons sounded throughout the arboretum.

“Ranowat!” she called, swathing through the overgrowth. “We need to talk! We’re being attacked. We need to call a truce!”

“A truce?” asked a small voice from within the bush.

“Yeah! The ship’s under attack!”

His head poked out from within a hollowed-out tree trunk. “Attacked, you say?”

“Yes,” Peterman said, extending her hand. “Come on. Let’s find a safe spot, or better yet, somewhere where our help is needed.”

“Of course, you’re right,” Ranowat said, emerging from inside the tree trunk. “I’m sorry to have caused you so much trouble, Counselor.”

“Don’t worry about that now,” Peterman said, just as she heard the voices of shouting Jem’Hadar….right outside, in the corridor!

BLEEP. “All hands, this is J’hana. Prepare for intruders. Try to die on your feet, with a shred of honor, if you can manage!”

“Have we been boarded?” Ranowat asked, confused.

“It sure looks that way.” Peterman took the doctor’s hand. “Come on, Doc. We need to get out of here.”

“Says you!” Ranowat cried, smacking Peterman across the face and darting deeper into the foliage.

“Ah, hell,” Peterman said, dashing after Ranowat as she heard Jem’Hadar entering the arboretum.

Gary Flemister, second grade teacher, looked up from his padd and out at the children in their seats. “…and then, finally, little Pryok learned that it was okay to cry.”

“Klingons don’t cry. They don’t have tear ducts!” one kid shouted out from the crowd.

“Yes, Mister Plato, I realize that,” Flemister sighed. “But this is just a story.”

“But it’s not accurate,” Plato said.

“It doesn’t have to be. All it has to be is entertaining. Were you entertained?”

“I guess,” Plato shrugged.

“Goody!” Flemister replied. “Let’s do a nice, long book report on it, then, shall we? I want five thousand words on ‘Pryok’s Tears’ by tomorrow, kids. And this time, I don’t want to see so many grammatical errors. Y-O-U-R does not mean ‘you are.’ Got it?”

“Yes, Mister Flemister,” some of the students replied unenthusiastically.

BLEEP. “All hands, this is J’hana. Prepare for intruders. Try to die on your feet, with a shred of honor, if you can manage!”

Flemister looked fearfully up at the ceiling. “Oh my. Children…don’t panic. We, uhm, need you to proceed in an orderly fashion to the shelter. The shelter. Where was that again? Oh, my goodness. Oh my goodness!”

Plato looked around his classroom as his fellow second graders moaned and cried, some running for the door. He had to find his mom. She’d know how to find a safe place to sit this thing out.

Plato shrunk himself down to a little less noticeable size and slipped out of the classroom. He then ran down the corridor toward Ship’s Shoppes.

“Two human lifesigns, Sixth,” one of the Jem’Hadar told the troop leader as he observed the thick forested foliage of the arboretum.

“Well, we don’t have time to look for them,” the Sixth replied. “Set your weapons to incendiary. Torch the place, then pull out and return to the ship.”

“Yes, Sixth,” said the other Jem’Hadar, and he relayed the orders to the others.

Captain Baxter turned around just as a blade sailed past his face and became embedded in his command chair. “Damn it, I loved that chair!” he cried, blasting an oncoming Jem’Hadar, and then another, with his phaser rifle. He grabbed the blade out of his chair and speared a third Jem’Hadar with it.

J’hana operated the tactical console with one hand and blasted oncoming Jem’Hadar with the other as she looked over the security reports. “Sixty Jem’Hadar are currently aboard. Another twelve more just beamed in!”

DiSalvo exchanged grins with Vansen as he smashed two Jem’Hadar heads together and sweep-kicked another. “Kinda reminds you of our honeymoon, huh, babe?”

“Just much more satisfying!” Vansen replied, driving her joined fists into a Jem’Hadar’s neck.

“Get away from me!” Lt. Madera cried, blasting Jem’Hadar as Lt. Sefelt cowered behind her. “I play the harp with these hands!”

“Richards to Hartley!” called the First Officer, as he tried to wrestle his phaser rifle out of a Jem’Hadar’s hands.

“I’m a little busy defending my engine room right now, Chris!”

“Get those shields back up!”

“Before or after I take out the twenty Jem’Hadar attacking this place?”

“In between!”

“Yeah, easy for you to say!”

“Just do it!”

“C’mon, c’mon. Get in here!” Janice Browning said, waving mall- walkers into her restaurant. “Now I finally understand why this storefront came with blast doors!”

She counted heads of who had huddled into her restaurant, including a panic-stricken Yeoman Briggs, and the blubbering maitre’d of the Gilded Tribble.

“Anybody else?” she asked, checking to make sure that Steffie Baxter was still safe, sitting in her carrier on the back corner table. “Okay, I’m shutting the blast doors. I just have to…” She thought. “PLATO!”

“Honey, this is no time for ceramics class!” Briggs called after her as she ducked out of the closing blast doors of her restaurant.

“And….done!” Baxter said with satisfaction, jabbing one of J’hana’s blades into a Jem’Hadar’s neck.

“Good work,” DiSalvo mumbled, as Baxter tossed his soiled uniform jacket on his chair and ambled over to tactical.

“Is that all you have to say?” Tilleran asked with a grin, slapping her hands together with satisfaction.

“How bad is it, J’hana?” Baxter asked.

“Not bad at all,” J’hana said, surprised. “The Jem’Hadar actually seem to be beaming off the ship.”

“No kidding?” asked Richards.

“How weird,” said Tilleran.

“Makes you think they got what they came for,” Vansen said.

“But what were they looking for?” Baxter mused.

Plato had to take a detour to Ship’s Shoppes, since a collapsed bulkhead had cut off access to the corridor he’d usually taken.

He felt a little lost as he rounded a bend, thinking at any time he’d see the familiar double doors into the Explorer’s mall loom on the horizon. He stopped momentarily and looked in the other direction.

No, that wasn’t right. He should head the other way.

Then something occurred to him. He giggled. In all the rush, he’d forgotten all about the computer. “Computer? Which way to Ship’s Shoppes?”

“Straight ahead, ten meters. Turn left, then left again,” the computer replied.

“Thanks!” Plato said, and headed that way, breaking into a run.

He was running so fast he didn’t even see Janice Browning step out in front of him. He collided face-first into her, recoiling onto his back.

“Plato!” Browning said, kneeling beside him. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you. Boy, was I worried about you.”

“I’m okay, Mom,” Plato said, as Browning helped him back up. “What’s happening?”

“Just some run-of-the-mill badguys,” Browning said. “Why don’t we find someplace safe to hide out?”

“Sounds like a good idea to me, Mom. I’m so glad I found you.”

“Not as glad as I am,” Browning said with a wide smile.

Plato cocked his head, looking at Browning’s apron. “Hey, Mom. Did you change aprons? Why does that one not have any writing on it?”


His head turned toward the source of the voice.

It was his Mom, running toward him from the opposite direction.

“Plato! Get away from her! Him! Her!”

Plato looked up woefully at the woman he thought was his mom. “Odo?” he asked weakly.

“Guess again, you little brat,” the woman who looked like Browning said, as her face bulged and contorted, resembling that of a half-man, half- monkey. “It’s time you and I got out of here!”

“Don’t you dare take him!” Browning cried, slapping her combadge. “Security! Intruder alert!”

“No kidding,” J’hana replied over the comm.

“It’s Jelo! He’s taking Plato!”

“What?” Baxter’s voice broke in.

“Somebody stop him!”

Browning heard several murmurs over the comm channel. Something about “Stop him,” and “shields still down,” and “officers reporting to the scene.”

“You’re too late,” Jelo hissed as Browning ran toward him. He gripped a control on his wrist, and as Browning lept at he and Plato, they dematerialized…

“Mooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmm!” Plato cried, his voice growing fainter as the transporter took hold and swept him away.

And Browning hit the bulkhead, falling to the deck in a heap.

“Baxter to Browning!” Baxter called over the comm. “What’s happening? Are you okay? Where’s Plato? Janice? Janice!”



Captains Baxter and Dwanok must join forces to prevent a rebel insurgence in the Dominion, Vansen must deal with a particularly bulky skeleton from her closet, and a meek little Jem’Hadar must prove he has the right stuff. If this ain’t season finale fodder, I don’t know what is!

Tags: vexed