Star Traks: The Vexed Generation is based on Alan Decker's Star Traks, which in turn is based on Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry, who is turning in his grave. Viacom owns Paramount and Paramount owns Star Trek. Anthony Butler has been working with Alan Decker on Star Traks for almost seven years now. Till death do they part. Copyright 2002. 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: 2002

Her voice was soft, calming, cloying, crisp and delicate.

She whispered in his ear like a siren, cooing a strange, foreign, ancient melody.

“Mirk,” she said. “You’re wasting your time. Give up, before it’s too late, and join me. Let me make you mine, little boy…”

He walked, through panel after panel of sheer curtain. He felt breeze waft over his face, smelled rosy perfume, heard the clank of an old, bluesy piano.

And then he felt a knee in his back.

Mirk shot bolt upright in bed, and did so with the realization that there was a knee sticking in his back. This wasn’t unusual. He always woke up with Lt. Commander Megan Hartley’s knee in his back. This didn’t mean it wasn’t annoying, but it was one of those things that went along with a romantic relationship that one stomached, because everything else was just so damn good.

Mirk rolled over, rubbing the sore spot on his back that Hartley had ground in with her knee throughout the night. “Morning, kiwi,” he said softly.

Hartley didn’t open her eyes. “It’s very early, and you’re talking. Any particular reason?”

“Because it’s time to get up. And because I had the wierdest dream last night…”

“Want to tell Auntie Megan about it?”

“No,” Mirk said quickly. “Um, aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“Check again. I have the day off, remember?”


“You know, I figured it would be easier to….oh, get married and whatnot, if I wasn’t having to align the phase recouplers and sync the gravity nets.”

“Good that you planned ahead.”

“I planned everything. We’re damned good and ready to get married, if I do say so myself.”

“Hey, I did some of the planning. I wrote my vows.”

Hartley opened her eyes, then narrowed them at Mirk. “Yes. I seem to remember seeing you up late the other night hurriedly copying some passages from one of your Maloxian texts. You are NOT to pour grapefruit juice on me.”

“Of course I won’t,” Mirk said, swinging his legs out of bed and sitting up. “But someone else willl,” he said under his breath.

Hartley leaned up. “So why are you getting up?”

“Oh, things to do and…things to do, I guess.”

“You didn’t get anyone to cover the bar for you, did you?”

“Well, we’re having the reception in the bar. So, you know, I’ll be there. And the rest of the day…well, nobody wants to get drunk during dayshift…except, of course, Ensign Carswell, and that’s only because he’s a syntheholic.”

“So, that again brings us to…where are you going?”

Mirk leaned down and kissed Hartley on the forehead. “Are you going to be this nosey when we’re married?”

“Mm-mm,” she replied, stretching her arms out tiredly. “I’m going to be even nosier.”

“I look forward to it,” Mirk said, and walked out of their quarters.

Hartley watched him go, and yawned. “Why is it,” she said to herself, “that I feel like I never quite get the whole picture with him? Hmm…maybe that’s why I love him so much. He never fails to surprise me…”

Mirk took the turbolift two decks down to Supply Closet 213 on Deck 11. He punched in his secret access code and slipped inside, then let the doors close behind him.

“Computer: lights,” he ordered, and the lights came up dim in the cramped room.

Before him stood a makeshift altar, really just a little modular workstation he’d pulled the electronic guts out of. Atop this little half-meter squared platform stood three bottles of annointed fruit juice. Below, a stack of fruits as old, perhaps, as Maloxitarianism itself. Petrified papaya, moldy melons, and the like. Kind of stinky.

Next to the altar, a stack of books Captain Baxter had ordered removed from the ship. Mirk, though, had managed to bribe the cargo technician with a few cases of Circassian scotch, and so protected the foundations of Maloxian religion. It wasn’t enough to have the books on file in the ship’s computer. He had to have the books themselves.

Mirk knelt before the altar, removed the tops from the bottles of juice, and flipped open the book at the top of the stack, tracing passages with his finger.

He read aloud: “Fruity-fruity melons of the morning, please grant me the strength to persist this day as I have so many others, and protect me and my future bride as we ride the delicious sweet nectar of life to its ultimate conclusion, where, in all the wisdom of all fruit- kind, may we find our everlasting peace. Amen.”

“You wanted to see me, Captain?” Lt. J’hana said, stepping into Captain Baxter’s readyroom.

“Yes, Lieutenant,” Baxter said, gesturing to the seat across from his desk. “Have a seat.”

“Did you try the muffins at Janice’s this morning?” J’hana asked, as she sat down. “They were fabulous.”

“There was a slug in mine,” Baxter groaned.

J’hana nodded. “That was the fabulous part.”

Grimacing, Baxter folded his hands on top of his desk and looked at J’hana. “Look, Lieutenant, I’ll get right to the point. I wanted to give you some time to get settled in before we sat and talked about your little…Klingon incident…but now I think it’s time we finally settled up.”

J’hana nodded. “I suppose Starfleet will want to give me a medal or somesuch…”

“Vansen wanted you court-martialed.”

“Heh,” J’hana chuckled. “I hope you set her straight, Captain.”

“Inasmuch as I protested the entire time she contacted the Judge Advocate General’s office, yes,” Baxter said weakly. “But, nevertheless, your career in Starfleet would be over if not for one thing.”

J’hana settled back in her chair a bit. “Hmm?”

“The Klingon Ambassador.”

“The who?”

Baxter looked at his desktop terminal. Gulped. “A Mister Worf.”

J’hana smiled. “Ahhh. Worf.”

“You know him?”

“Only by reputation. And that time we bumped into him at that conference two years ago.”

Baxter scratched his head. “Your memory is better than mine, Lieutenant. Anyway, apparently Worf was so impressed by your heroics in trying to save Dwanok that he coerced the Judge Advocate General’s office into dropping the charges against you.”

“Charges?” J’hana still didn’t seem interested in the conversation. She seemed…mellow.

“You know…murder.”

“Oh, right. You can only kill people under certain circumstances in the Federation. I keep forgetting.”

“Andor is IN the Federation. You should know this!”

“I hope your realize we Andorians have always seen fit to…steer around that particular little ‘no killing’ thing. We believe killing is a free, artistic, very human expression.”

Baxter shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “A naughty note from the JAG will be appearing in your personnel file.”

“Anything else?” J’hana asked.

Baxter looked at his terminal. “You’re out of vacation days.”

“No problem,” she said, and stood up. “Hm. Maybe I’ll kill Lieutenant Sefelt. He looked at me funny when I walked in here.” And she walked out.

Baxter stared down at his desk. “Please be kidding, J’hana. Please, please be kidding.”

“Captain?” A head appeared in his doorway, one Bradley Dillon, President of the United Federation of Planets.

Baxter sat bolt upright. “Mister President!”

“Not busy, I hope?”

“Sure, of course not,” Baxter said, and stood. “Come on. Sit down, or whatever.”

Bradley walked in and sat on Baxter’s couch. “Comfy.”

“Thanks.” Baxter walked over to the replicator. “Tea. Orange Pekoe. Hot.” He looked at Bradley . “Can I get you anything?”

“Yes. One mysterious alien race, please.”

Baxter nodded. “Computer, one myst…” He looked back at Bradley . “Pardon?”

“The Bast.” Bradley ‘s eyes widened. “It’s time to begin our search for them in earnest.”

“We’re only one day out of Federation space,” Baxter said, pulling his tea out of the replicator slot and walking back to his desk. “You told me the Bast were somewhere out in deep space.”

“You have to understand, Captain,” Bradley said, leaning forward. “I never went to the Bast homeworld. I don’t even know if they have one. They’re largely nomadic. They wander in large concentrations of ships that have been built for extended voyages. And when I say extended, I mean hundreds of years.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem to find one of these ship groups,” Baxter said. “Put Tilleran and Stellar Cartography on it. See if we can’t…”

“It’s not going to be that easy,” Bradley said. “You see, I’m not even sure what the Bast ships look like. Or their people for that matter.”

“Didn’t you do business with them?”

“Under sensors blackout, with only audio contact. They’re very secretive. They don’t like dealing with other races, and believe me when I tell you that it took some doing to arrange to buy their technology, and that I only managed to get that technology from a radical fringe group.”

“This is all finally starting to make some sense,” Baxter said. “You’re not marked for death because you never paid the bill. You’re marked for death because you got in with the wrong crowd of Bast.”

“I’m not at liberty to go into the details with you, Captain. I’ll give you information if and when you need it.” Bradley stood. “For now, we should investigate a planet in the Dulcet system, in Sector 74890. They arranged my first meeting with the Bast and may be able to steer us in the right direction.”

“Dulcet. That’s a ways away.”

“I believe the Bast are even farther away. One of the reasons I picked your ship for this assignment is because your people have so much experience operating far from Starfleet Command.”

“You’ve got a point there, I guess,” Baxter sighed, then tapped his combadge. “Baxter to bridge.”

“Bridge. Madera here.”

“Lieutenant, make course for the Dulcet system. Warp seven.”

“Aye, sir.” There was a pause. “At that rate, we should get there in a little over ten days.”

“Very good. The mission shouldn’t interfere with the wedding, then. Maintain course. Baxter out.”

Bradley got up from the couch and crossed in front of Baxter’s desk. “Wedding?”

Baxter looked up from his terminal, as if he were surprised the President was still there.

“Chief Engineer Hartley, and Mister Mirk, our Ship’s Lounge Manager, are getting married today.”

Bradley nodded. “Ahh. Good for them. Someone always seems to be getting married when I come aboard. It seems like just yesterday that I presided over the marriage of you and the good Counselor Peterman.”

“We’ve been married for more than three years,” Baxter corrected.

“I see. Still going strong?”

“Of course it is!” Baxter said.

“Hmm. Fascinating,” Bradley said, and walked out of the readyroom

“What’s that supposed to mean!” Baxter called after the president.

“So, it all comes down to this,” Hartley sighed, staring down at her feet.

“Open-toed or closed-toed?,” Yeoman James Briggs said firmly.

Counselor Peterman, Doctor Janice Browning, and Lt. Commander Ariel Tilleran surrounded Hartley, staring at her feet, looking on with intense interest. Peterman curled baby Steffie against her shoulder. Browning munched on a muffin.

“Mmph…I think the closed-toed shoes make your feet look smaller.”

“And goodness knows you need that, Megan.”

Tilleran glared at Peterman.

“Well she does!”

Hartley sighed. “Fine. Closed it is.” She glared at the other women. “And closed-toed shoes for all the ladies, as well.”

“Not that it’ll matter, in your case,” Tilleran said, as Briggs went to replicate the footwear. “Your gown will cover your feet.”

“Oh, no it won’t,” Hartley said. “I decided on the short dress last night at oh-two hundred.”

“And you didn’t inform the maid of honor!” Peterman shrieked. “Egads, woman! What are you trying to do, give me a stroke?”

“Yes,” Hartley grinned. “Has it worked?”

Browning held two fingers to Peterman’s neck. “Nope. But I’ll let you know when.”

“I feel distinctly like I’m losing control of this situation,” Peterman said. “This is supposed to be a happy time for you and Mirk, Megan…and I should be coordinating it!”

Hartley put her hands on Peterman’s shoulders. “Relax, and breathe, Kelly. You’re going to be fine. The wedding’s going to be fine. My dress is going to look great. Mirk told me so himself when he saw me in it last night.”

“He SAW you in it!” Peterman gasped. Browning and Tilleran did likewise.

“Yeah. Is that bad?”

“Um, yeah,” Tilleran said. “I’m from a planet where they don’t even wear clothing for the ceremony, and even I know that.”

“What, it’s bad luck or something?”

“Yes!” Peterman said. “He shouldn’t see you at all on your wedding day.”

“We woke up together.”

“Well, I’m putting a stop to that right now.” Peterman clamped down on Hartley’s wrist and dragged her toward the doorway. “You’re spending the rest of the day in my quarters and that’s that!”

“I hope you mean your quarters as in where you live, and not as in where you keep your pets…” Hartley moaned as Peterman dragged her away.

“God help us all,” Browning said, sharing a grin with Tilleran as the two left Briggs’s.

“I’d better go up to the bridge and check on J’hana,” Tilleran said. “She’s still a little shaken, you know, about Dwanok.”

“I’ve hardly noticed. She looked downright relaxed this morning.”

“It’s all a smokescreen.”

“Well, good luck,” Browning said, waving to Tilleran as she walked back to her restaurant.

Tilleran arrived on the bridge just in time to see Richards and Baxter come out of the readyroom and walk over to the command area to join Lt. Commander Vansen. She smiled at J’hana and went over to her station, ordering Ensign Koltz over to Auxiliary Engineering/Environment, on the other side of the bridge.

“Status,” Baxter said, as Vansen laboriously got up and moved over to her seat.

“We’re still on course for the Dulcet system. Holding steady at Warp Seven, all systems are functioning normally, and you’re a big, obnoxious imbecile. That’s about all.”

“Very…good,” Baxter said. He looked at Richards. “Guess all we have to do is make ready for the festivities.”

“Oh,” Vansen said. “Not that I care, but…how was the bachelor party?”

Baxter looked at Richards, who looked blankly back.

“Bachelor what?” Richards asked.

Vansen rolled her eyes. “You gave Mirk a bachelor party, right?”

“Maybe,” Baxter said. “It depends on what that is.”

“You know, a big bash to give the groom one more big night of debauchery before he gets married. A way for him to blow off steam so that he’s prepared for his eternal wedded bliss or whatever.”

Baxter rubbed his chin. “Hmm. Sounds like fun. Wish I’d had one.”

“I had no idea,” Richards said.

“Well, it’s too late now. The wedding’s in less than six hours. Not nearly enough time.”

“She’s right,” Baxter said.

“Besides, Sam never had a bachelor party before he married me, and it didn’t seem to hurt anything. Of course, we ARE divorced now, but, who’s really counting?”

“Holodeck,” Baxter said, standing. “Now!”

“Right,” Richards said, and followed Baxter to the foreward turbolift.

Vansen scooted back into the command chair, then leaned back and smiled. “Beautiful.”

“Commander, I’m a little busy. I have to supervise the unloading of over forty pounds of crab dip!” Mirk protested, pulling his dinner jacket on as Richards dragged him by the arm down the corridor.

“The captain and I have an important assignment for you.”

“I’m not in Starfleet!”

“Still, you’re part of this crew. You have certain…obligations.”

Mirk glared at Richards as he was brought in front of a large set of doors that, he knew, lead into Holodeck Three. “What kind of obligations?”

Richards hit a control on the door, and it obediently slid open.

“To get down and boogie!” Captain Baxter called from inside the dimly lit room as Richards shoved Mirk in.

Suddenly, multiple beams of red, green, and blue lights went up and criss-crossed all over the dim room, and Mirk found himself in the middle of a crowd of strange men he didn’t recognize, all of which were looking up at the stage. When Mirk looked up at the stage, he covered his face.

A barely-clothed Orion slavegirl was swinging around a metal pole, wrapping her legs around it and sliding up and down.

“You brought me to a strip club,” Mirk sighed.

“Not just any strip club,” Baxter said, walking up to him. The captain was holding a large glass filled with thick yellow liquid, a little umbrella, and two curly straws. “This is a recreation of the Antares Club. The best Men’s Only nightspot in the quadrant.”

Mirk turned for the door. “I have a lot to do, Captain. It’s a nice sentiment, but…”

Richards blocked his exit. “This is a Terran wedding tradition, Mirk. You have to at least give it a try.”


“Because, Megan is from Earth, and you should respect her culture.”

“I’m sure she begged you two to take me to a strip club on my wedding day.”

Baxter sucked from his glass. “Mmm. Pina colada. Look, Mirk, this actually should have been done on the night before your wedding. But Chris and I kind of dropped the ball on that, and we’re trying to make it up to you.”

“But I don’t need to be at a strip club. Today is supposed to be a romantic, special occasion. Not a time for cheap…” He glanced over at the stage, and the Orion slavegirl. “Oh my, did she just douse herself in bourbon?”

“I think it’s Romulan ale,” Richards said, patting Mirk on the back.

“Well,” Mirk said. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have a drink and watch the show for a little bit.”

“That’s a boy,” Baxter said. “Bartender, another pina colada!”

“I wonder what Andy’s doing right now,” Counselor Peterman said, adjusting the magna-locks on Steffie’s fresh diaper and lifting her into her arms. She walked out of the bedroom of her and Baxter’s quarters, where Lt. Commander Hartley was waiting, in her teal off-duty slacks and t-shirt, looking around, looking apprehensive.

“Oh. I’m sure it’s official ship’s…stuff.”

“Can I get you anything?” Peterman asked as she reached into a drawer and pulled out a tiny, lacey white dress for Steffie.

“Nope,” Hartley said, shifting from foot to foot. “I’m a-ok.”

“You seem nervous,” Peterman said, sitting down on the couch, with Steffie on her lap, and pulling the little dress on her daughter.

Hartley looked around. “It’s just…I’ve never hung out in your quarters before.”

“You’ve been here plenty of times. To pick up Charlie. Isn’t that right, booty boy?” she asked, cooing to the golden retriever who, upon hearing his name spoken, ambled over so Peterman could rub his head. “Yes, you’re a good boy. Yessir!”

“Um, I hate to spoil a family moment, but why did you want to talk to me again?”

“To make sure nothing goes afoul today.”

“Afoul? Is that a word?”

“Yes.” Peterman stood up, placing Steffie into her high-chair. “There are certain things that have to happen at a wedding. And as your maid of honor, I need to make sure these things go smoothly.”

“Things…like what?”

“Well, first of all, the groom can’t see the bride before the wedding.”

“Why not?”

“It’s just bad, okay? Trust me on this one.”

Hartley stared at the ceiling. “Fine. What else?”

“We need to work on your walk, for when you go down the aisle.”

Hartley looked down at her feet. “My…walk?”

“Yes.” Peterman walked up to Hartley, placed her hands on the engineer’s shoulders. “Your walk is a little…stiff. A little…manly.”

“It is NOT!”

“You don’t walk…you swagger. And that’s fine for when you’re crawling through Jefferies tubes fixing things. But when you walk down that aisle, you need to do it with grace and poise. Here, watch me.” Peterman gently tossed her hair behind her shoulder and walked over to the other end of her quarters. She smiled regally and let her hands fall easily to her side. Then she took slow, measured steps, continually smiling, looking ahead at Hartley, one foot in front of the other, almost as if she were drifting. “There. Now you try.”

“You looked like an idiot. I’m not in a Federation Day Parade, for Pete’s sake.”

“MARCH!” Peterman faily shouted, and Steffie giggled impishly in response.

“Okay, okay,” Hartley said, and walked over to the other end of Peterman’s quarters. She grunted something under her breath, then walked toward Peterman. “There.”

Peterman grabbed Hartley’s hands. “Damn it, Megan, you have to swing your arms when you walk! And one foot IN FRONT of the other, not BESIDE!”

“I wonder if Tilleran would mind being my Maid of Honor,” Hartley muttered.

“Sefelt to Peterman.”

Peterman let out an exasperated breath. “What?”

“I thought you’d like to know that the Captain, Commander Richards, and Mister Mirk have accessed Holodeck Three.”

“Are you monitoring them?”

“Yes, Counselor. I think you’d better get down there.”

“Good work, Mister Sefelt. We’ll double your counseling appointments this week. Keep me posted.” Peterman looked at Hartley. “Megan, I want you to go back to your quarters and practice your walk. And do not, under any circumstances, answer the door for anyone but me. Understand?”

“Sure, sure, whatever you say,” Hartley grinned, and then sauntered out of Peterman’s quarters, just as prim and properly as Peterman had walked. “See, I’m getting the hang of it!”

“Way to go, Megan!” Peterman said, then bolted out of her quarters in the opposite direction, headed for the holodecks. She turned back for her quarters when she realized she’d forgotten Steffie.

“‘Way to go, Megan,’” Hartley mocked to herself as she strolled down the corridor toward Main Engineering. “What a load of crap. Kelly can keep her walk. My walk hasn’t let me down yet, and I’m going to keep it.”

“What’s that, Commander?” Ensign Ryan Stuart asked as Hartley walked into Engineering.

“Nothing,” she said.

“Aren’t you off today?” he asked.

“I just wanted to drop by and make sure everything’s okay.”

“Commander,” Stuart said, leaning on the Master Systems Display. “You’ve been Chief Engineer for over a year now, and you haven’t taken one vacation day since. Why don’t you just focus on your wedding today?”

“There’ll be plenty of time for that when I’m on my honeymoon,” Hartley said. “For now, I’d like to check on those plasma injectors. They looked a little funny yesterday.”

“They’re fine.”

“Let me be the judge of that.”

“Aren’t you getting married in like five hours?”

“Four and a half,” Hartley said, ducking into the port Jefferies tube access hatch.

“Lick! Lick! Lick!” Richards and Baxter chanted as Mirk sipped Romulan ale off the stomach the Orion slavegirl, whose name, he’d found out, was Liarta. The Anatares Club had been emptied of its other occupants, and now was only populated by Baxter, Richards, Mirk, and an Ensign Carswell, who insisted he was a friend of Mirk’s, then promptly headed to the back part of the strip club and got tanked on Andorian fwarz-sharshers.

“LICK LICK LICK!” Baxter and Richards continued to chant as Mirk slathered the Orion slavegirls belly.

“Wait,” Mirk said, leaning his head up. “I think I got some lint in my mouth!”

“Keep licking, boy!” Baxter said. “That’s an order!”

“Stand down!” a voice called from the door to the holodeck, from which glaring bright light poured in.

Mirk, Richards, and Baxter covered their eyes and blinked at the silhouette standing in the corridor.

“Kelly?” Baxter asked weakly.

“Lights on full!”

“Hey,” Liarta said, leaning up on her elbows.

“Computer. Delete program,” Peterman announced. Suddenly, Liarta, and the surrounding strip club, dematerialized, leaving the group standing in the midst of an orange-on-black grid.

Mirk, for his part, fell on his face, hitting the ground with a thud.

“You all should be ashamed of yourselves!” Peterman said, cuddling Steffie in the crook of her arms. She looked at Baxter. “Especially you, Mister!”

“What did I do?” Baxter asked, scratching his head, doing his best to look innocent.

Peterman leaned down and lifted Mirk up by the arm. “Bringing this innocent Maloxian into a den of vile, disgusting perversion on his wedding day. It defies all wedding traditions!”

“Actually,” Richards broke in. “It IS a wedding tradition.”

“You shut up!” Peterman ordered.

“We just thought we’d show Mirk a good time,” Baxter said, as Mirk looked around dizzily. “You know, before he ties the old ‘knot.’”

“Oh, so do you think you’d have benefitted from something like this before YOUR wedding, Andy?” Peterman asked, her face going quickly from angry to vulnerable. “Is this what you wanted?”

Baxter stared at his feet. “Well…no.”

“So why are you subjecting Mirk to it?”

Baxter and Richards looked at each other. Richards shrugged. “Because, we thought it’d be fun,” he said.

“Well, you’ve all had enough fun for one day. It’s time for marrying. Mirk, you can go get dressed in mine and Andy’s quarters. You can’t see Megan till the wedding.”

“Your…quarters?” Mirk said reluctantly.

“Yes,” Peterman said. “And, Mirk, have you even bothered to figure out who’s going to be your best man?”


Peterman sighed. “The man who stands next to you and hands you the ring, during the ceremony.”


“I see we have a lot of work to do,” Peterman said, grabbing Mirk by the hand and dragging him toward the holodeck exit. “Oh, and Chris…” she called over her shoulder. “Congratulations. You’re the best man.”

“I am?”

Baxter stood alone in the holodeck with Richards.

“Well,” he said. “I hope you’re happy. Look at the trouble you got us into.”


“It wasn’t my idea.”

“No,” Richards grumbled. “It was Vansen’s. It’s all her fault.”

“Yes,” Baxter said, his face brightening. “It’s all Vansen’s fault.”

“I don’t know about you, but I feel better,” Richards said. “Want to go shoot a game of domjat before the wedding?”

“After you,” Baxter smiled.

Two hours later, Mirk found himself standing in Baxter’s bedroom, feeling very awkward, staring at himself in the full-length mirror.

“You did an excellent job, James,” Peterman said to Yeoman Briggs, as he knelt in front of Mirk, checking the inseam on the Maloxian’s crotch.

“I had an excellent subject to work with,” James said with a grin, as he slid his fingers up and down the inseam. “Just have to make a few more adjustments…”

“Thanks for the compliment, Mister Briggs,” Mirk said, swallowing hard. “But do you have to keep…grabbing…”

“It’s for the measurements!” Briggs snapped, then returned to his work.

Mirk looked down. “But you’ve been making adjustments down there for like…half an hour.”

“Trust him, Mirk,” Peterman said, putting a hand on Mirk’s shoulder. “He knows what he’s doing.”

“Well…okay.” Mirk studied himself in the full-length mirror. The suit was a deep purple hue, with wide lapels, as was his preference. It was like many of the suits he wore when he presided over his bar, only the material was fancier, silky, with an ornate, multilayered white bowtie and a frilly white dress shirt beneath the purple jacket.

“There. Done!” Briggs said, giggling with glee. “You make a beautiful groom, Mister Mirk,” he said. “Good luck out there! I’ll be watching!”

“Um…thanks,” Mirk said, as Briggs grabbed his tailoring kit and ducked out of the bedroom, and out of the Baxter quarters.

“Why don’t you go wait outside while I get dressed,” Peterman said, gently ushering Mirk out of the bedroom. “Maybe you can watch something on the holovision.”

“You just want me to…hang out here?”

“Yes. And if Steffie starts crying, would you mind giving her a bottle? Thanks! I should only be an hour or so!”

Mirk stood out in the middle of Baxter and Peterman’s living room as the counselor ducked back into the bedroom.

“Well…this is awkward.”

Suddenly he heard Stefanie wailing from her bedroom, at the other end of the cabin.

He frowned as he walked over to the baby’s duffle bag and grabbed a bottle of milk. “Correction. THIS is awkward.”

“I refuse to wear that,” J’hana said flatly, standing in Tilleran’s quarters, as the Betazoid twirled in her frilly purple bridesmaid dress, with the layers and layers of taffeta, and the low-cut top with swirling spaghetti straps.

Tilleran stopped twirling.. “I knew you’d resist, initially, but I think you’ll find…”

“It’s ridiculous and effeminate. There’s nowhere to put my ceremonial blade!”

“Why do you need a blade for a wedding?”

“The question is, why WOULDN’T you need a blade for a wedding?”

“J’hana, I love you, but sometimes you make no sense.”

“I will not wear that dress.”

“Well, then you can’t be a bridesmaid.”

J’hana crossed her arms. “Fine. Then I won’t be a bridesmaid.”

Tilleran rubbed her chin. “So where in the Fifth House are we going to find a replacement on such short notice?”

“You can forget about it,” Vansen said, crossing the Explorer’s bridge, checking over the readings at the tactical console. “You seem to have confused me with someone who gives a damn about the personal lives of this crew.”

“But this is Hartley’s wedding,” Tilleran said, following Vansen, trying not to trip on the folds of her dress. “You like her!”

Vansen stopped, looked at Tilleran. “I don’t hate her as much as the rest of you, true.”

“And how better to express that lack of hate then to be her bridesmaid?”

“You don’t seem to understand, Commander. You see, I just don’t care about any of you. Got it?”

“Do you know how much it would irritate Counselor Peterman if you were part of the wedding party?”

Vansen stepped down to the command center, then turned back toward Tilleran. “Irritate, you say?”

“Oh, it would ruin her day.”

“I’m a size six. Go get me a dress.”

“Right away!” Tilleran said, stumbling into the turbolift. She accidently stepped on the bottom ruffle of her dress, and ended up slamming into the turbolift wall. “Sickbay,” she mumbled, in a heap, as the doors closed.

“This is turning out to be a great day,” Vansen said to herself, as she sat back down in the command chair.

“Honey, I’m home,” Baxter said, walking into his quarters. He looked around. The place was empty. “Kelly?”

Mirk stepped out of Steffie’s room, holding the cooing baby in his arm, with a bottle propped in her mouth. “Hi, Captain. She went down to find Megan.”

Baxter nodded. “I see. Thanks for looking after Steffie.”

“No problem. She stopped crying as soon as I gave her the bottle.”

Baxter raised an eyebrow. “Really? She didn’t put up any resistance?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“Um. No reason,” Baxter said. “Nice tux. Better get my dress uniform.”

Mirk held Steffie and watched reluctantly as Baxter headed into the bedroom. A few minutes later, Baxter ducked his head out. “Mirk…have you seen my ceremonial belt?”

“Counselor Peterman had it destroyed.”

“Damn her!”

“Maybe Yeoman Briggs can make you a new one.”

Baxter shook his head. “Nope. He’s no longer allowed to do anything anywhere near my waist. I’ll just grab one of my backup belts.”

“Um…” Mirk said, as Baxter disappeared back into his bedroom.

Peterman stopped in her tracks as soon as she reached Engineering. She hadn’t had any difficulty jogging down the corridor, even in her frilly dress. But she’d stopped cold when she saw Hartley crawling out of the Jefferies tube.

“Megan!” she shrieked.

“I tried to stop her,” Ensign Stuart said weakly.

“There, all done,” Hartley said, slapping her greasy hands together. She was covered from head to toe in grease, sweat, and dirt. “Those were some nasty injectors. They’re all nice and clean now, though!”

“I would be dragging you out of here, if I wasn’t scared to death of getting this dress dirty,” Peterman mumbled. “Mister Stuart, take Lieutenant Commander Hartley and follow me.”

“Um…” Stuart gulped. “Take…her?”

“We’re going to her quarters, and we’re going to bathe her and get her ready. Now move. Time is of the essence!”

“Um, Commander, please come with me,” Stuart said in a soft voice.

“You’ll have to do better than that,” Hartley grinned.

“Get in that shower, Megan!”

“Can’t you do this, Counselor?” Stuart grunted, as Hartley writhed and squirmed as he pushed her into the sonic shower in her quarters. Already, he had a bruised rib, a busted lip, and a wrenched arm.

“I don’t want to get my bridesmaid outfit messed up, Ryan! You’re her subordinate. It’s your job to make sure she’s clean!”

“Since when?”

“Stop fighting him!” Peterman told Hartley.

“Let me do things my own way!” Hartley snapped back, kicking and lashing out at Stuart as he tried to shove her in the shower.

The doors to Hartley’s quarters bleeped, and Peterman answered. “WHAT?”

“Why did you have my favorite belt destroyed?” Baxter asked, standing in the doorway in his white dress uniform, wearing a brown leather belt with a large “Dallas Cowboys” Texas-shaped belt buckle.

“Because it looked ridiculous,” Peterman said, then beamed at the belt Baxter was wearing. “But not half as ridiculous as that.”

“This is the backup belt. Guess you didn’t realize I had one of those, huh?”

“Ouch! Stop punching me! I’m trying to shampoo your hair!”

“What was that?” Baxter asked.

“Nothing!” Peterman snapped.

Baxter shouldered his way into the quarters. “I’ll be the judge of that.” He walked into the bathroom to find a half-naked Hartley wrestling a beaten and petrified-looking Stuart as he pushed her head into the doorway of the sonic shower, as its waves crashed over her.

“And you thought what I did was perverted?” Baxter said, turning and walking out of the quarters.

“I’m just trying to get her clean!” Peterman snapped. “But, what was I thinking! I should just have someone lick her clean! That’s the way you’d do it, right?”

“I never agreed to that, Counselor!” Stuart shouted from the bathroom.

Baxter shook his head. “Mirk and Hartley have no idea what they’re in for.”

“And what does that mean?” Peterman demanded as Baxter walked out.

Stuart walked by shortly thereafter. “She’s all yours, Counselor. I’ve done everything I can.”

Mirk stood at rear of the Explorer’s arboretum, framed in fruit trees and vegetation, and tropical bamboo torches that surrounded him and the altar. Behind him, stars streamed by through huge, narrow, two-storey windows as the Explorer flew through space at warp.

Lieutenant Madera, fresh from bridge duty and wearing a beautiful burgundy dress, strummed on her harp on a nearby mini- stage.

Hundreds of white folding chairs were lined up in front of Mirk, in the flat area of grass, where, until several weeks ago, a section of rainforest had been.

Unfortunately, the previous year, Jem’Hadar had infiltrated the Explorer and torched the place, decimating much of the forest while at the same time clearing out plenty of room for Mirk and Hartley’s wedding ceremony.

Mirk shifted his weight from foot to foot as Commander Richards stepped up next to him. “She should be here any minute, Mirk,” Richards said, taking his place beside the Maloxian and folding his hands behind his back. He was wearing a purple tux much like Mirk’s, except the lapels and bowtie were normal-sized, more of a classic look. Classic, except for the fact of being purple.

“I’m not antsy,” Mirk said, looking out over the growing crowd of crewmembers who were quickly taking their seats in the white folding chairs. “I don’t know why you’d think I’m antsy. I’m not.”

“Who said you were antsy?” Richards asked. “There’s nothing to be antsy about.”

“Easy for you to say. You backed out of your wedding at the last minute.”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

“No problem. I can understand your apprehension, though. This is a big commitment. Spending the rest of your life with someone.”

“Yep. Big commitment,” Richards nodded.

“Of course,” Mirk said, “when you look at the alternative…”

Richards looked at Mirk. “What alternative?”

“Spending your life alone…” Mirk shivered. “What a scary thought. Thank the Directors I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

“Where the hell is Megan?” Richards suddenly said. “Can’t we get this thing overwith?”


Madera suddenly changed her tune to the familiar wedding march, and Mirk and Richards both looked to the large pair of frosted doors behind the crowd, at the end of the long aisle that lead up to the altar. Mirk gulped.

The doors opened, and in strolled three purple-clad women, holding bouquets of…what was that? Pears and apples?

Tilleran, Browning, Vansen….


Richards’s eyes bugged out. “What the hell is she doing here?”

Mirk shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve been surprisingly uninvolved in the planning process lately.”

The three women slowly strolled down the aisle and up to the altar, taking their place on Mirk’s right-hand side.

Richards winked at Browning. “Hi there.”

“Hi, Christopher,” Browning said, fumbling with her bouquet. She looked around to make sure no one was watching her, then leaned down and began nibbling on the pears and apples in her floral arrangement.

“Stop eating the bouquet,” Vansen hissed.

“What’s she doing here?” Richards whispered at Browning.

“Mmmph….dunno,” Browning said. “Can we get this thing overwith?”

“Shhhh,” Tilleran said. “The bride will be walking in any minute!”

The doors to the arboretum once again opened, as Madera continued to strum her harp.

This time, though, the person who walked in was J’hana, barely clothed, in nothing but leather and spikes.

“Wow,” Richards said softly.

J’hana, holding a pair of serated blades above her head, ran down the aisle, doing a number of complicated somersaults, vaulting through the air, landing in front of Mirk, placing both blades, criss- crossed, at his throats.

“SHETHHH’LA LAX!” she shrieked. “Are you ready to be married, you vile, heinous man?”

“Is this, uh, is this part of the ceremony?” Mirk croaked as the blades chafed at his throat.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Richards said. “Hey, J’hana. I like that outfit.”

“SILENCE!” she screamed at Richards, then flipped backwards, end over end, and quickly sat down in a seat in the third row.

She ended up sitting next to Lt. Sefelt, who scooted over a little to make room, and watched her with unchecked fear in his eyes.

“Megan should be walking in any minute,” Richards said.

“I sure as hell hope so,” Mirk said.

The doors parted once again, and this time Madera’s tune changed again. Richards recognized the melody as “Hail to the Chief.”

Bradley Dillon strolled into the room, waving at the gathered crowd, surrounded by his black-clad security personnel and his assistant, Gisele.

“Greetings from the United Federation of Planets!” he called out to the crowd. “I’m glad you’ve all come out to witness this grand spectacle! There’s nothing more beautiful than the marriage of two people who love one another. Remember, the Federation fully supports interspecies marriage!”

And with that, Bradley took a seat with his entourage in one of the rear rows.

“Was he invited?” Mirk asked Richards.

“No. I think he just recognized a good PR opportunity when he saw one.”


The doors to the arboretum had barely closed when they opened again, and Madera once again started playing the wedding march.

Captain Baxter and Counselor Peterman walked in, arm-in-arm, looking…somewhat angry. Peterman, however, had a very nice stride.

They walked down the aisle, Baxter leading Peterman to the row of bridesmaids, then taking his position at the center of the altar, with Mirk and Richards standing to his left, and the bridesmaids to his right.

Baxter looked out at the crowd and smiled. “What’s Vansen doing here?” he whispered through clenched teeth.

“Don’t ask me,” Richards whispered back.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Peterman suddenly exploded, glaring at Vansen.

“Taking part in Commander Hartley’s magical day!” Vansen replied sweetly. “Please, Counselor, don’t let your hatred of me ruin this special time for our crewmate!”

“Ooooh, I am going to get you,” Peterman seethed, as the doors to the arboretum opened again and Lt. Commander Hartley, finally, walked through, escorted by a tall, angular and lean man with rough-hewn, outdoorsman features.

“Who’s that?” Baxter whispered.

“Her dad,” Richards said, matter of factly.

“Her parents are aboard?”

“Her parents, her sister, and two brothers all came aboard when we were at Waystation,” Richards said. “See them, in the front row? You met them when they toured the ship yesterday.”

“Boy, we sure are in our own little world on this ship,” Baxter said.

“Speak for yourself,” Richards said.

Bob Hartley brought his daughter down the aisle, and Mirk beamed. She was beautiful in her knee-length white dress, with the crabapple corsage pinned to her shoulder. Her gait was especially interesting to watch: she seemed to walk much more elegantly than Mirk had ever remembered. But maybe that was just the sentiment of his wedding day talking.

Mirk grinned. It was all worth it. All the consternation of his crewmates. The in-fighting, the disagreements, the disorganization, the chaos. It all came down to this. He would be marrying Megan Hartley. They would be together forever.

Bob brought Hartley up to stand next to Mirk, then leaned in and whispered something to the Maloxian.

“If you ever hurt her, I’ll kill you. Omnipotent or not. You got me, boy?”

“Yes, Mister Hartley,” Mirk gulped.

Captain Baxter waited for Bob to return to his seat with the rest of the Hartley family and looked out upon the crowd of crewmembers. He grinned. “Ladies and Gentlemen. Since the days of the earliest sailing vessels, ship captains have always had the honor of performing the rite of marraige. Today, we are gathered here to witness the joining of Mirk and Megan Hartley in holy, wedded, matrimony. They have prepared some special vows which they would like to recite for us.” Baxter pulled a small padd out of his jacket pocket. “But, before they do that, I have some words of my own prepared.”

The entire audience collectively groaned.

“Love,” Baxter began. “Such a simple word. A deep word, filled with meaning and… meaning. Love is more than just the rubbing together of a man and woman while in bed. No, although that’s definitely fun, it’s a lot more than that.”

“Please, no…no more…” Peterman whimpered.

“No…love is about waking up next to a woman every day of your life, and seeing that she’s still there, and that she hasn’t left you yet, no matter how much of an imbecile you are.” He looked at Peterman. “Love is never having to say you’re sorry. Love is being able to belch without excusing yourself. Love is about not having anything to hide from the person you’re with.

“It’s about taking pleasure in simple things, even things like farting. Things we take for granted . Yes, even when your loved one drools and makes baby noises in bed, and humps her pillow, you still love her, and that simple, embarrassing fact changes nothing.

“Because, no matter what she does, you find you only love her more.”

Peterman leaned in toward Browning. “I don’t know if I want to hit him or kiss him.”

“Kiss him,” Browning said softly.

“Love is forever,” Baxter said, finally. “And I’m so pleased to be able to join Mirk and Megan in that love today. Now, if we may, let’s have the exchange of vows.”

Hartley and Mirk stepped in front of Baxter, their backs to the audience.

“Farting?” Hartley asked Baxter with a small smile.

“I wrote this at oh-two hundred last night. Give me a break,” Baxter said, still smiling out at the crowd. “Mirk, Megan, if you will please face each other and read your vows. The tallest one may go first.”

Hartley grinned, looked at Mirk, took his hands. “Guess that means me. Mirk,” she said, taking a long breath. “You know how much I love you. You know how I feel about you. And you know I want to be with you forever. We don’t need any special words to signify that. Because it’s understood.”

Mirk smiled back at Megan. “Megan, you are the fruit of my existence. You are the apple of my life, the red cherry of my soul, and the gleaming apricot of my heart. I want us to drink from the juice of our love forever, for all eternity, and may the Directors make it so.”

Baxter turned around, reached up to one of the many fruit trees that sprouted around the altar, and grabbed a grapefruit off one of the branches. “Waste of a damn good snack, if you ask me,” he muttered to himself, then broke the grapefruit in half, turning toward the betrothed couple.

“Mirk, Megan, may this fruit juice bond you in one hundred percent all-natural, sweet bliss, with no preservatives.” And Baxter unceremoniously squeezed both halves of grapefruit over the heads of Mirk and Hartley, letting the juice drip down on them.

“Oh, god…it burns my eyes…” Hartley groaned.

“I trust the best man and maid of honor have the rings?” Baxter asked.

“No,” Peterman said, stepping forward. “I have them both.” She looked at Richards. “Sorry, Chris. Nothing personal. I just wanted to make sure they didn’t…you know…get lost.”

“No offense taken,” Richards muttered.

Peterman handed one ring to Hartley, and the other to Mirk. “Good luck, guys,” she said quietly, then stepped back with the other bridesmaids.

Mirk took his ring and, with the other hand, took Hartley’s hand. “Although I don’t understand this particular part of the ritual, with this ring, I thee wed…” And he slipped the ring on her finger.

Her lip trembling, Hartley fingered the ring that Peterman had given her, and took Mirk’s hand in hers. “Back at you,” she said, and slipped the ring on his finger.

“Now then,” Baxter said, as Mirk and Hartley clasped each other’s hands. “At this time, should anyone believe this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Mirk and Hartley looked around.

“Why did we add this part in again?” Hartley asked under her breath.

“Don’t ask me,” Mirk said. “I thought you wanted it.”

Baxter looked out at the audience. “Good. So, without any further delay, I now pronounce you man and…”

“Objection, sweetie!”

Hartley whirled angrily. “And just WHO THE HELL SAID THAT?”

“Not hell, but a good guess,” the compactly-built, lean, strikingly beautiful blonde woman said, strolling down the aisle toward Mirk and Hartley. She wore a delicious sequined evening gown and high heels, and her whorls of glistening blond hair fell in piles about her shoulders. She wore a diamond tiarra and matching necklace. Every man in the audience gasped collectively.

“Gabrielle,” Mirk growled.

“Keefler to the Captain!” came the bleep of Baxter’s combadge. “Captain, sorry to interrupt the wedding, but we have a….something big…of the port bow!”

“Thanks for noticing,” Baxter said slowly, looking on, stunned.

“You’re wasting your time with this pathetic ceremony, Mirk!” Gabrielle, the Goddess, said, stepping toward Mirk. “Come with me. Take advantage of your limitless power!”

“You’ll have to go through me to get to him!” Hartley shouted, stepping between Mirk and Gabby.

“Not a problem,” Gabby said, and with a wave of her hand sent Hartley flying off the altar and into a strawberry patch. “Now then, Mirk, it’s time for our honeymoon!” She took Mirk’s arm, and the two disappeared in a whirl of golden colors.

“Um…” Captain Baxter said, looking around at the crowd who had gotten out of their seats, mumbling to themselves, as Peterman and Browning raced to Hartley’s side. “I believe there’s a reception in the Constellation Club.”

“So…do you like to play games?” The half-Founder asked the two month old Jem’Hadar pacifist, as they sat huddled around the crib of the captain’s baby.

Chaka’kan observed Plato with a skeptical eye. “What…kind of games?”

“You know, like hide and seek? Or carascat? Or penobscotch?”

“I am not familiar with those games.”

“Twenty questions?”

“Ah, yes. I am familiar with that one.”

“Okay. Here goes. What am I?”

“The half-Founder offspring of the ship’s cook?”

Plato laughed. “No, no. You gotta ask me twenty questions. Start with animal, vegetable, or mineral.”

“You are not a vegetable, or a mineral.”

“It’s not what I am…it’s what I’m pretending to be.”

“Are you deceiving me?”

“No. It’s a game!”

“I do not understand.”

Plato sighed. “Hey…I think it’s time to change Steffie again.”

“We just changed her.”

“Well, I think she needs to be changed again. Hey,” he said, looking at Chaka. “Do you feel like we’re being left out of something?”

“The joining ritual of the human and Maloxian? I do not see how it has any bearing on my mission here.”

Plato shrugged. “You have a misson?”

“Indeed. I am supposed to learn more about human interaction and bring that information back to the Founders.”

“Sounds like you’d have learned a lot from going to the wedding.”

“Alas, I was asked by your captain to babysit. I got the feeling I did not have the option of saying no.”

“Chaka, the first thing you have to learn about being on this ship is that you’re always free to say no to Uncle Andy.”

Chaka nodded. “I understand.”

Suddenly the lighting in Steffie’s room went dim, and was replaced by glowing red lights.

“All hands, this is your captain speaking,” Baxter’s voice came over the comm. “We are currently under attack by an omnipotent entity. Please stay in your quarters and don’t talk to any strange blonde women you may run across! That is all.”

“We should go see if Uncle Andy needs help,” Plato said.

“Negative,” Chaka replied. “We must stay and protect the child.”

“We always miss out on the fun,” Plato pouted.

“Good job inciting the crew to panic, Captain,” Vansen quipped as the bridge crew squeezed out of the aft turbolift and onto the bridge.

“Get me out of here! I can’t breathe!” Lt. Sefelt croaked, crawling out on hands and knees. “Taffeta…all that taffeta…’

Vansen, Hartley, Peterman, J’hana, Baxter, Richards, Tilleran, and Madera all emerged from the turbolift, in a wave of bustling purple taffeta. Browning had taken Hartley’s family to Space Tastes to have a bite to eat and hide until the crisis was over.

“Whose elbow was stuck in my butt that whole time?” Madera asked, as she walked over to the helm, and as she and Sefelt relieved the backup conn and ops officers.

“My apologies; what a horrible accident,” J’hana said, swinging behind the tactical console. “Permission to wear leather on the bridge more often, Captain.”

“Vehemently denied, Lieutenant,” Baxter snapped, walking toward the center of the bridge, where Richards, Vansen, and Peterman joined him. Richards was sandwiched between the immense folds of Vansen and Peterman’s dresses. Hartley, for her part, limped over to the engineering station.

“Diverting emergency power to weapons and shields,” she said. “Let’s blow that bitch to kingdom come.”

“That ‘bitch,’” Vansen said, “is omnipotent.”

“We don’t even know what we’re dealing with yet,” Baxter said. “But J’hana, stand by on weapons and shields. Tilleran…get me a visual. And some scans.”

“Right,” Tilleran said, sitting down behind the science station, squeezing the folds of her dress under the console. Moments later, the viewscreen was filled with an expansive, silver cloud of gas that seemed to thrum and pulsate with pure white-hot energy.

“The Entity,” Richards said with a low whistle, squeezing out from between Peterman and Vansen. “The Goddess’ hangout.”

“I thought we got rid of that woman,” Vansen said, looking at Baxter.

“Actually, I believe she just decided to leave. I don’t think we had anything to do with it,” Baxter said.

“Scan for Mirk’s lifesigns,” Hartley told Tilleran.

“Yes,” Baxter said. “Do that.”

Tilleran frowned at her panel. “Unsurprisingly, our sensors can’t penetrate the cloud.”

“Is it moving?” Richards asked, unbuttoning the jacket of his tux.

“No,” Tilleran said, “but there does seem to be an energy build-up on the other side of the Entity.”

“What kind of build-up?” Hartley asked.

“A breach in space-time,” Tilleran said. “To some other plane of existence, if I had to guess.”

“I refuse to go to Detroit again!” Vansen said.

“She’s going to take Mirk through there!” Hartley said. “We have to stop her.”

“Any way to seal that breach?” Baxter said.

“Yes. If we had Mirk, it’d be a cinch.”

“Any non-omnipotent way of doing it?” Baxter asked.

“Yes,” Hartley said, tapping away at her station. “If we generate a powerful enough warp field, we can probably put up a barrier between the entity and the breach.”

“You’re talking about getting in the way of a being of limitless power,” Vansen said. “Is that smart? God, look who I’m asking.”

“You be quiet,” Baxter said, marching over to Engineering. “Hartley, can it be done?”

“Definitely,” Hartley said, studying her panel.

“Without destroying my ship?”

“Um…let me check.”

“Please do.”

Suddenly, the foreward turbolift door opened, and Bradley Dillon walked out, followed by his entourage.

“Secure the exits,” he told his security men, and they obediently went to stand by each door.

Baxter glared at the newcomers. “J’hana: Shoot those men if they make any attempt to interfere with us.”

“Gladly, sir.”

“Captain, I am merely here to assess the situation,” Bradley said, stepping up next to Baxter. “What is the nature of that…thing out there?”

“It’s an entity of unimaginable power. The ‘Goddess,’ as she likes to be called, or ‘Gabrielle,’ is aboard, and has taken Mirk there. We’re trying to stop her from taking Mirk to a different plane of reality.”

“And is this business as usual on the Explorer?”

Richards shrugged. “Pretty much.”

“No, I think this is a little out of the ordinary,” Baxter said. “And I’ll be glad to report all of it to you after we’re done retrieving Mr. Mirk.”

“I have a counterproposal,” Bradley said. “I’m going to stay here and observe. After all, this…disturbance…is interfering with the mission I’ve assigned to the Explorer.”

“We’ll try to pick up the pieces of Lieutenant Commander Hartley’s life as quickly as possible so that we can get you back on track, Mister President,” Baxter mumbled.

“Please see that you do,” Bradley said, either not aware of Baxter’s sarcasm or not caring.

“Sir!” Tilleran said. “The breach is growing. It’s now as wide as the Entity itself. More than 1700 kilometers wide.”

“My…God…” Richards said.

“Or Goddess,” Baxter said. “As the case may be.”

“The Entity’s moving,” Tilleran announced. “Right toward that breach.”

Baxter whirled toward Engineering. “What about that warp shell, Hartley?”

“Almost got it,” Hartley said, frantically tapping on her panel.

“Lieutenant Madera,” Baxter said, stepping toward the helm, resting his hand on Madera’s chair. “Move us into position between the Entity and that breach!”

“Captain, respectfully submit that you’re an idiot,” Vansen said, walking up next to Baxter. “You’re risking this whole ship on one crewmember!”

“Commander, the needs of the…hell, why waste my breath,” Baxter said. “Madera: Go!”

“Warp shell ready,” Hartley said. “I don’t think it’ll destroy the ship.”

Baxter nodded. “Then by all means, initiate when we get into position.”

“Captain,” Bradley Dillon said.

“Not now, Mister President. We have stuff to do.”

“I believe I am somewhat higher than you on the chain of command.”

“You’re not in Starfleet.”

“I am the Commander in Chief!”

Baxter looked over his shoulder at Vansen. “That right?”

“He does have authority over the Federation’s armed forces.”

“I’ll have to remember that. Madera?”

“We’re in position now.”

Baxter looked at the viewscreen. On one side, the white- yellow breach in space yawned open, crackling with energy. On the other side, the Entity loomed. “Hartley: GO!”

“Activating warp shell!”

The lights on the bridge flickered as the entire ship seemed suddenly overcome with static energy. Baxter felt the hair on the back of his neck rising. Peterman stepped forward, took his hand.

“Results?” he asked, after a long silence.

“Shell holding. The Entity’s not going anywhere!” Hartley grinned.

“CAPTAIN!” J’hana suddenly exclaimed. “The Entity. It’s moving THROUGH us!”

The Explorer jolted as the screen suddenly went from spacey black to pure, roiling silver. It was like being stuck in a puddle of molten solder.

“We are inside the Entity,” Tilleran announced.

Baxter whirled to face tactical. “J’hana! Get us off this crazy thing!”

“Firing phasers! No effect, Captain!”

“Susan: Full impulse. Get us out of here,” Richards ordered.

“Engines unresponsive,” Madera said, looking at her panel. “We’re not going anywhere.”

“The Entity is,” Tilleran said, in the glow of her screens. “It’s passing right through us, right through our warp shell, and right into the breach.”

“Tractor beam,” Baxter ordered.

“Yeah, right,” J’hana said. “Phasers haven’t worked. Our engines don’t work. You really think…”


“Fine,” J’hana said. She tapped a control. A blue beam lashed impotently out at the silver expanse on the viewscreen. It fizzled. “What do you know? No effect.”

Peterman squeezed Baxter’s hand harder as the ship rumbled around them. The lights flickered more, dimming to almost nothing.

“Report!” Baxter said.

“The Entity has almost gone through the breach. We’re almost out,” Tilleran said.

“Small miracles,” Bradley Dillon muttered.

Suddenly, as if it’d never been there, the rumbling stopped, and everything was still. The viewscreen was once again filled with space…except for the screaming energy breach in the center of the screen, which seemed to be shrinking.

“The breach should fully close in two minutes,” Tilleran said.

Hartley stepped down from her station to stand next to Baxter. “We have to go through there and get Mirk back, Captain!”

Baxter looked at the viewscreen, then at Hartley. “How do we know what we’ll find there?”

“Whatever it is, it holds the key to getting Mirk back.”

“You’ll do no such thing, Captain,” Bradley said. “We were lucky to survive recent events. We will not risk this ship further.”

“And, last I looked, you were not the captain of the Explorer,” Baxter snapped. “Susan, take us through that breach, now.”


“Belay that,” Vansen said, stepping in front of Baxter. “All stop.”

Madera looked from Vansen to Baxter. “Uh…”

“You heard the Captain,” Richards said, walking up beside Vansen. “Go, Susan!”

“Two to one,” Baxter snapped at Vansen.

“Two to two,” Bradley said. “You will not go through that breach, Lieutenant Madera.”

“In case of tie, I believe whatever the President of the Federation says goes,” Vansen said haughtily.

“Captain,” Bradley said. “I know you’ve done idiotic things before, and survived them. I know all about your trips to the Delta Quadrant, and Gamma Quadrant. Giant behemoths walking all over the saucer section. Ship being turned into a fairy tale land. Happy universes. Paranoia. Ship-wide elections. Well, the Explorer’s mission is too important to risk her destruction now. I’m here to tell you that this ship is NOT expendable. Not while I’m aboard. Now, stand down, or I’ll relieve you of command.”

“PLEASE disobey him,” Vansen cooed at Baxter. “Pretty, pretty please.”

Baxter glared at Vansen. “Madera, come about and take us to a safe distance from that rift. Tilleran, get me every reading you have on that breach, and on the Entity. We’ll find another way to get Mirk back.”

“Damn you, Baxter,” Hartley muttered, and marched into the turbolift.

“Megan, wait…” Peterman said, lifting up her taffeta folds and rushing into the turbolift. “We have to decide what to do with all that crab dip!”

“You made a wise choice, Captain,” Bradley said, walking into the foreward turbolift and waving for his entourage to come with him. “You have six hours to retrieve your friend. If you can’t get him back by then, we’ll continue to the Dulcet system. Understood?”

Baxter didn’t say anything.

“Good,” Bradley said, and the turbolift closed, and the bridge was silent.

“You have the bridge, Chris,” Baxter said, and walked into the readyroom. “Somebody let me know if there’s any other way we can f*** things up today.”

“I’ll compile a list,” Vansen said, and went over to her chair.

“Go to hell,” Baxter said, and disappeared into his readyroom.

Mirk blinked his eyes open, and felt a wave of vertigo.

“Oh, baby, it’s all right. I know you’ve been through a lot. We just left your space-time continuum. That can be disorienting to a guy. Especially a pubescent godlet like yourself! You need time to adjust!”

The glaring white resolved itself into the parlor of an old- fashioned house, Mirk knew, that was in the deep, deep south.

He was lying on a stiff French Provencial couch, and Gabrielle was stretched out in the chair opposite him, wearing a yellow flowered sundress and wide-brimmed straw hat, fanning herself with a wide bamboo fan.

“Good morning, sleepy head,” she said softly. “Enjoy the trip?”

“Why did you do this?” Mirk said, leaning up.

“Play something…sweet and sexy, Harry,” Gabrielle yawned, stretching her arms out and setting the fan down on her coffee table. “Would you like a mint julep, Mirkles?”

“Don’t call me that,” Mirk said, as the man who was called Harry Connick, Jr. began to pound the piano keys, stopping only to sip from a bourbon glass:

This magic moment, so different and so new, But like any other, until I kissed you. But then it happened; it took me by surprise! I knew you felt it too, by the look in your eye. Sweeter than wine!

Softer than the summer night, everything I want I have, whenever I hold you tight. This magic moment, while your lips are close to mine, will last forever forever till the end of tiiiiiiiiiiiiiime…. Ooohhhhooohhh oooohhhohhhhhh oooooooooooohhhooooooooh…

“What is this?” Mirk asked, standing. “Are you trying to seduce me?”

“Oh, but darling, I already have,” Gabby said, pointing down. “See for yourself.”

Mirk beamed. “I’m naked!”

“Yeah, baby! Kick the tires and light the fires!” Harry Connick cheered, dipping his glass toward Mirk and then dumping the rest of it in its mouth. He then began another verse of “This Magic Moment.”

“Get me some clothes!” Mirk demanded.

“Make some of your own. I suggest something…ooh….in a zoot suit! Those are so…retro!”

“I’ll do no such thing,” Mirk said, and closed his eyes. In moments, he was wearing his normal bartending outfit: bright yellow colored dinner jacket and matching slacks.

“Well, that’s cute too,” Gabby said, and stood. “Come now, Mirkles. Dance with me.”

“Don’t call me that!” Mirk said, trying to pull away as Gabby slung her arms around him, leaning her head on his shoulder.

“Ooh, isn’t this nice! We should just get married right now and then the guests will have to pay a dollar to dance with me, and you can watch!”

“What?” Mirk asked.

“Old tradition. Surprised you’ve never heard of it. Then again, I guess they don’t have dollars in your time. Oh well. Your loss!”

“I’m not going to marry you, Gabrielle. You’re going to return me to the Explorer and let me finish my wedding uninterrupted.”

“Oh, Mirk, you’re such a drag!” Gabby said, shoving Mirk away and drifting back to the couch. She sat, primly, and folded her hands over her knees. “You’re so shortsighted.”

Mirk stared at her. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Did you even listen to the vows you two were spouting at each other?”

“Of course I was listening!”

“Eternity, Mirk. You said eternity!”

“And I meant it!”

Gabby stood and walked over to Mirk, putting her hands on the sides of his face. “Mirk, you poor, stupid, naive little boy! How little you understand about your power!”

“I know all I need to know about my power. I know I have it, and it’s my choice as to how I use it.”

“But you’re a god, Mirk. Face it, you’ll live forever. And Megan, nice as she is, is not going to live forever. So, sure, she’ll pledge eternity to you. She’s only going to be around another eighty, ninety years max! She has nothing to lose! But when you say eternity, you really mean it. Do you really want to chain yourself to that mortal? Is that how you want to spend your godhood?”

“I don’t care about being a god. Not as much as I care about Megan.”

“She’s a blink of an eye in your universe! She’s a speedbump! A tiny, insignificant thorn in your paw. You need to rid yourself of her, or risk a lifetime of mediocrity. You really want that?”

Mirk folded his arms. “If it means I get to spend my life with her, then yes, I do.”

“But you won’t spend your life with her. You’ll spend her life with her, then spend the rest of eternity grieving for her.” Gabby’s face softened as she turned from Mirk, stared out the window at the sunny Savannah, Georgia day outside. “Mirk, dearest, I am doing this for you. To save you the pain that I know your immortality will cause you.”

“I was doing just fine until you showed up.”

“How short-sighted you are. And thick headed.” The goddess shook her head. “But, then again, I guess I was like that too, until I transcended.”

“If I’m omnipotent, then maybe I can just take Megan away to be omnipotent with me.”

“You really think she’d do that? Leave her precious, pedantic little human life, all the reality she’s ever known, just to be with you?”

“I know she would.”

“Mirk,” Gabby said patiently. “You need to realize something those silly Directors have never told you, probably because they’d rather be mysterious and vague. But you’re ready now. There’s no need to wait. All it will take is a decision, and you’ll be fully omnipotent, right now. You’ll be a full-fledged god. And you could rule at my side. Think of it!”

“I would rather have Megan,” Mirk said defiantly, folding his arms.

“My God, it’s like I’m talking to J.C.”



Mirk snapped his fingers, pointed at Harry Connick, Jr. “How can you sit there and tell me I can’t live happily ever after with a mortal? You’ve surrounded yourself with popular icons of Earth. You brought them with you!”

“And, although we have a lot of fun together, did you ever wonder why none of them has married me?” Gabby asked.

“You know, it’s really none of my business,” Mirk said, standoffishly.

“It’s because these…Chiefs of mine…and these Protectorates. They’re only echoes of real people. They’re apparitions created for my amusement. I could never marry one of them. What would be the point?”

“Hey, ouch baby, that hurts!” Connick said, and winked at Gabby. “Any requests, or should I just jam?”

“Shut up, Harry,” Gabby said, and looked back at Mirk.

“Maybe with me, it’ll be different,” the Maloxian said. “Maybe, eventually, I’ll be able to bring Megan with me.”

“Don’t you think, if I could, I’d have found a perfect love on Earth, and brought him with me?”

“Maybe I’m more powerful than you. Maybe I can.”

Gabby sighed, through her arms out wide, and spun around in circles. “Mirk, oh, silly, silly Mirk! That’s not at all how it’s going to go. Do you want to know how it’s going to go? Because I know.”

Mirk cocked his head. “How…could you know?”

Gabby stopped spinning, then pointed at her head. “Hello! Omnipotent!”

“Oh. Right. Well, I don’t want to know my future. I’ll figure that out for myself, if you don’t mind.”

“I mind. Because you’ll be giving up your power. If you pledge yourself to that mortal, human woman for all eternity, you’ll never reach godhood. Not because of a curse, or a technicality, or any other kind of plot device, but because you’ll be constrained by human society, stymied by her pathetic limitations, and the limitations of that cursed Explorer crew.

“It’s not a propos to conjure and create things out of thin air. It’s out of vogue, and it’s not accepted in their world. You’ll have to give up being who you are. You’ll just be…Mirk Hartley.”

Harry Connick started playing another song:

That old black magic has me in its spell. That old black magic that you weave so well. Those icy fingers, up and down my spine. Same old witchcraft, when your eyes meet mine. That same old tingle that I feel inside. And then that elevator starts its ride. And down, and down I go…

Mirk felt something rising in him. Something awful, something angry, and something powerful. His eyes gleamed bright blue and he stared at Gabrielle.

“ENOUGH! I am sick of your parlor, and the tricks that go along with it! Get out of my sight!”

“Well look who’s got his dander up now,” Gabby mumbled.

“BE GONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNE!” Mirk cried out, and from his eyes that blue energy shot, blasting away at the old southern home, blasting a pathway out, and past Gabrielle, and through the layers upon layers of the massive Entity. And out he glided, his toes pointing toward the ground, his body upright, right out, and into the whirling hysteria of the Universe Gabrielle had taken him to, outside the normal space-time continuum. It was an M.C. Escher drawing of interconnecting tubes and tunnels and strobes of multicolored light, and spinning whirlygigs and constantly intersecting and converging points. Shapes in more than three dimensions passed to and fro, connected, disected, grew, shrink, disappeared, and reappeared.

Mirk didn’t know he was, but he knew he wanted no part of it.

“Mirk, you’re making the mistake of your life!” Gabby called out to Mirk, standing in the gash he’d ripped open in her Entity. “You have no idea what you’ll be missing! Love is fleeting. Omnipotence is forever!”

“I’ve had enough of you,” Mirk called over his shoulder, and with a nod of his head, the Entity went spiraling out of that Universe and into another.

And Mirk, meanwhile, cut a swath in the space-time continuum, and side-stepped back into his world, as easy as he’d step into a pair of pants.

And there he was, on board the Explorer, in the arboretum, on the altar, facing Hartley, who looked disoriented.

“What the…?” she said, then her face spread into a smile. “MIRK!”

“Miss me?” he said simply.

She threw her arms around him, squeezed him tightly.

“Oh, God, Andy,” Peterman said, covering her face. “Put a shirt on. Nobody needs to see that.”

“What?” Baxter asked, looking out over the crowd, who also looked disoriented. “I was taking off my dress uniform and about to get into my regular uniformed when I was…beamed here.”

“Oh, you weren’t beamed,” Mirk said.

“Then what happened?” Richards asked.

“I was able to reach an agreement with the Goddess. An agreement that she’d never bother us again,” he said as he brushed Hartley’s hair behind her ear and grasped the back of her neck. “I think it’s safe to say that, after today, even if she ever does find her way back here, she’ll have no use for me.”

“And what makes you say that?” Hartley said.

“An educated guess. Now, let’s get married.”

Hartley grinned wide, and pulled Mirk into a long, ravenous kiss.

Baxter looked on. “Oh, right. I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

As Hartley and Mirk kissed, Baxter looked over at Richards. “Could I borrow your jacket, buddy? It’s a little bit…nipply in here.”

Richards grimaced. “Yeah. Keep it, Andy.” He pulled his jacket off and handed it to Baxter. Then he stepped down off the altar, patting Mirk on the back. “Congratulations, Mister Mirk.”

“It’s Mister Hartley now,” Mirk said with a grin, and, with that, he took Hartley by the hand and lead her down the aisle, and out of the arboretum. “Now, and forever.”



It’s time to get this search for the Bast in gear. Who are they? Why does Bradley Dillon want to find them so bad? Will he ever find them? Will Commander Richards ever get a date? And what does kickboxing have to do with anything? Find out in two weeks in “The Bast of What’s Around.”

Tags: vexed