ADVERTISE YOUR DISCLAIMER HERE!!! REASONABLE RATES!!! In the meantime, here's the old one: Star Trek is the property of Viacom. Star Traks and Star Traks: Waystation are the property of Alan Decker.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 2005


“What About Baughb?”

By Alan Decker

Captain Lisa Beck had barely settled into her booth at the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet Andorian Restaurant when she heard her name being shouted from across the room. Fortunately, it was being called in an excited, boisterous fashion, so she was fairly sure that she wasn’t being summoned to deal with a crisis of some kind.

“Ah there she is!” Ih’mad, the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet’s proprietor said, smiling broadly as he rushed up to her table. “My favorite customer and our glorious commanding officer. You are looking ravishing this morning.”

“Are you about to ask me for a favor, Ih’mad?” Beck asked with a grin. “Because I don’t think I’ve been buttered up this much in a long time.”

“A favor? By the hive, no! Why would I need anything on this day of all days? Everything I could possibly want is right here or coming my way.”

“Ah,” Beck said nodding in understanding. “You’ve had some good news I’d bet.”

“That I have,” Ih’mad said, his grin growing broader. “Baughb is coming back! At long last his exile is over, and he will be able to resume his rightful place waiting on my tables!”

Beck’s brow furrowed slightly as she thought this over. “Um…Ih’mad, I only exiled Baughb for a year…and that was almost three years ago.”

“So he was detained!” Ih’mad said. “Who cares? The important thing is that he’s coming back now. Today! I wonder if he’ll want to work the dinner shift…no. I should give him some time to settle back in. He can be here for breakfast tomorrow. And speaking of that most important of meals, Captain, I hope you enjoy yours. We just got in a shipment of kassh’ek’s eggs. Very fresh. Would you like some?”

“I’ll think about it. I’m waiting for someone else to join me, though.”

“Ah, so we are not dining alone this morning! This is good news! Ever since the departure of that Harper, you have seemed less yourself.”

“This isn’t a date, Ih’mad,” Beck said. “It’s just one of my officers. And since when did you start taking an interest in my personal life?”

“The well-being of my favorite customer and our station commander is of great interest to me. I know that Admiral Fonn person is now in charge, but you will always be the commander as far as I’m concerned.”

“Fortunately Fonn feels the same way,” Beck said.

“I don’t follow.”

“Never mind,” Beck said. “And you don’t need to worry about me. I’m just fine. You should worry about your own love life.”

“Ah, but there is no need for that, Captain. This restaurant is my only love, and I am her devoted spouse. I would rather be vivisected, deep fried, and served with a garnish of Velzzzsn leaves than to stray from her.”

“Your devotion is an inspiration,” Beck said just as she spotted her breakfast companion entering the restaurant. She raised her hand, waving Yeoman Tina Jones over to the table.

“Good morning, Captain,” Jones said, rushing over. “Am I late?”

“I don’t think so. I’m not looking at a clock, though, so I guess it doesn’t matter one way or the other. Have a seat.”

“Yes, do sit, Tina Jones, great hero of the battle against the Collectors,” Ih’mad said with a deep bow as he gestured for Jones to take a seat opposite Beck.

“I wasn’t a hero,” Jones said uncomfortably.

“Nonsense. You should have seen her handle that flamethrower, Captain. She was a vision.”

“A vision? Really?” Jones said, flattered.

“Most definitely. But I must be off. He will be arriving soon!”

“He who?” Jones asked.

“Baughb! He is returning from exile!” Ih’mad exclaimed happily before giving Jones one last bow and racing off toward the kitchen.

“Um…didn’t Baughb’s exile end like two years ago?” Jones asked Captain Beck.

“Yeah. I mentioned that to Ih’mad. He didn’t seem to care,” Beck replied. “He could definitely use a decent waiter back, though,” she added as two glasses of water, complete with the requisite chunks, were unceremoniously slopped down on the table by a passing member of the restaurant staff. “Do you know what you want to order?”

Jones shifted in her seat uncomfortably. “I…already ate.”

“Not an Andorian fan, eh?”

“No,” Jones said firmly. “Is that a problem?” she added suddenly nervous.

“No no. It’s fine,” Beck said. “If I made liking Andorian food a requirement, I wouldn’t have a staff left. I just wanted to get back to the issue of you getting into the Academy. Between the Multeks and Admiral Fonn, I’m afraid that got lost in the shuffle. I’m sorry about that.”

“It’s okay,” Jones said. “I knew you’d get to me when you could.”

“Thanks for your patience. Now everything is just about set for your admission. Your record shows great potential, and I have it on good authority that you’ve got some sparkling recommendations. Since you’re already a non-commissioned officer, you don’t have to take the entrance test. Instead in these cases, potential students are interviewed by a member of the admiralty who assess their suitability for the program. You’ve actually lucked out in this case. Until recently, this would have meant that you had to go somewhere else to meet with an admiral, but now you can have your chat with Admiral Fonn.”

“He’s willing to interview me?” Jones asked surprised. Word had spread fairly quickly around the station that the only thing Admiral Fonn was willing to do was relax. If you had business, you went through Captain Beck.

“Yes, he is. He’ll be expecting you to come by his quarters at 1100 hours.”

“Today?” Jones gasped in horror. “That soon?”

“Relax, Tina. It’s just an informal talk. Fonn will ask you some questions. Answer them as best you can.”

“I’d better go,” Jones said, scrambling out of the booth. “I need to get ready.”

“Don’t worry about it. You’ll do fine,” Beck said.

“Thank you, Captain. Good bye,” Jones said before rushing toward the exit. Don’t worry about it? Easy for Beck to say. It wasn’t her future on the line.

Watching Baughb’s transport land in Docking Bay Eight was something of a breach in etiquette, Ih’mad knew. Usually when an employee wished to regain his position after any kind of absence, that employee would come to the employer. And then there was the ritual mutilation. The Andorian Restauranteurs’ Guild had very clear regulations on this sort of thing, right down to how to select the body part to be mutilated.

Baughb was something more than just a waiter, though.

He was the best waiter Ih’mad had ever known.

Beyond that, though, Baughb had been exiled because he killed an assassin that had been sent to kill Ih’mad. Ih’mad couldn’t help but feel grateful to him even if he was only acting out of the loyalty a good employee should have toward his employer. That gratitude was why Ih’mad was willing to perform this breach of etiquette and actually meet Baughb’s transport in the docking bay.

After watching several other Andorians disembark from the ship, Ih’mad finally spotted Baughb descending the stairs. Baughb had filled out a bit, his gangly figure somewhat less gangly with the addition of some muscle mass. It suited him well.

“Ih’mad!” Baughb cried suddenly, seeing his former employer. He leapt down the remaining steps and raced toward Ih’mad, his shoulder bag bouncing along behind him. “It is so good to see you! Are you here to meet someone?” he asked.

“I’m here to see you,” Ih’mad said.

“Me? But…”

“I know,” Ih’mad said, smiling and wrapping an arm around Baughb’s shoulder. “But let’s say no more about my flaunting of tradition. Come! You must be hungry. We’ll get you something to eat.”

“At the restaurant?” Baughb asked.

“Of course at the restaurant! I will have Fh’lay fix you something very special!”

Ten minutes later, the pair was settled at a table in the secluded back corner of the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet. Yes, Ih’mad was glad to have Baughb back, but there was no need to advertise to the rest of the restaurant that no mutilations would be taking place. That sort of thing could be bad for business.

“So,” Ih’mad said as the two split a J’azhad kabob appetizer plate. “How was the colony?”

“Challenging,” Baughb said. “It took me some time to find my place there, but now…now I wouldn’t give up the experience for anything. I learned so much about me and who I am. I can say with absolute certainty that I am a better Baughb than I was before.”

“I’m happy to hear it,” Ih’mad said. “As I’m sure our customers will be. The Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet just hasn’t been the same without you.”

“That’s very flattering,” Baughb replied as Ih’mad picked up another kabob skewer. “But I’m not coming back to work here.”

Ih’mad froze and took several seconds to fight down his reflexive urge to jam the kabob skewer into Baughb’s left eye socket.

“N-n-not coming back?” Ih’mad said confused. “But your exile is over, and you’re here. Why else would you be here if not to come back?”

“Waystation is my home,” Baughb said. “I realized that while I was on the colony. But I also realized something else, and I have you to thank.”


“Yes, you. You told me when I left that I was ready to start my own restaurant. I didn’t believe you at first. I thought you were just being nice.”

“I was being nice.”

“But you were also right. I knew in my heart that I was ready, but I didn’t have a vision.”

“What does vision have…”

“I needed a vision for my restaurant. I didn’t want to be just another restaurant that serves Andorian food. I wanted to create something special, just as Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet is special. I was lost, wandering the colony and working at various restaurants trying to find the inspiration I needed. But there was nothing…until I met a man. Oh but he’s so much more than a man. He’s…he’s the Z’arkbelst.”

“Oh svaatz,” Ih’mad muttered.

“The Z’arkbelst showed me the way. He sparked my vision, and he did it with a single word: Fusion!”

“Fusion?” Ih’mad said confused. “We already have fusion. What do you think powers the deep fryer and the scorching chamber?”

“Not that kind of fusion,” Baughb said with a rather creepy serene smile. “Food fusion. Andorian cuisine is the high point of culinary achievement in the galaxy, but it does not appeal to all palettes. But if we were to combine our recipes with the styles of other worlds, maybe we could bridge the gap. That is what the Z’arkbelst showed me, and now I have come back to my home to make the idea a reality.”

“You’re opening a restaurant. Here,” Ih’mad said, his grip on the kabob skewer tightening.

“Yes. It’s going to be on the second level of the mall between the food court and Sorbok’s Shoes and Sandals.”

“Wait. There’s already something going in there. Work has been going on behind a temporary wall for a week now.”

“That’s us!” Baughb said proudly. “I wanted to surprise you, so I requested that the construction crew not tell anybody the name of the place. Construction is just about complete, and as soon as I’ve hired and trained a staff, McBaughb’s will be open for business!”


“Yes! Isn’t it wonderful?”

“I don’t know what it means. What is this ‘Mc’?”

“It’s an Earth prefix for an establishment that serves fine cuisine at a rapid pace. Their history mentions a rather prominent one opened by a man named Donald.”

“You have joined your name to an Earth name?” Ih’mad said in horror and disgust.

“It’s fusion!”

“It’s insane! It’s an outrage! It’s a deep violation of our sacred duty as preparers of our world’s meals. How could you?”

And still Baughb smiled. “The Z’arkbelst had made me see the future.”

“The Z’arkbelst is a human! And those deluded fools who worship him are as nuts as you are.”

“It takes some time to adjust to new ideas.”

“New ideas! This is nothing but a desecration of the Andorian culinary arts! Here I was, ready to welcome you back to my employ, and I wasn’t even going to take your antenna! What’s happened to you, Baughb? You are not the loyal waiter who left here three years ago.”

“I’ve found myself.”

“And if this weren’t a new suit, you’d find yourself in the Mishtak pit with my knee in your spine! Get out! Get out before I change my mind and have you hung up in the back and your organs stripped for ingredients!”

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Baughb said, rising from the table. “You’ve always been good to me, Ih’mad. I sincerely hope that in time you understand what I am trying to do.”

“I understand it fine,” Ih’mad snapped. “And I want no part of it.”

“Very well.” Baughb started toward the exit.

“And don’t come crawling back here when your McBaughb’s abomination fails!” Ih’mad called after him. “You will never wait tables for me again! I don’t care if you give me both antennae and a lung!”

Baughb didn’t respond. Instead he continued out into the mall, his antennae hanging sadly.

Yeoman Jones timed her approach to Admiral Fonn’s quarters very carefully, moving down the corridor with measured steps. Punctuality was important, but if she arrived right at 1100, it might seem like she had rushed and made it just in the nick of time. On the other hand, if she was too early, she could come across as too eager or, worse, disrespectful of her appointed arrival time. Therefore, she was aiming for 1058 hours. Close to 1100, but not too close.

At exactly 1058, she stepped up to the door of Fonn’s quarters and gave her uniform a final straightening tug before ringing the door chime.

“Hang on a second! Be right there!” Fonn’s voice called from inside over the din of several clattering objects. This was soon followed by several exclamations from Fonn that Jones had to assume were Efrosian profanities. Moments later, the door opened, revealing the admiral. He was dressed in a rugged pair of green pants, covered in pockets, a red plaid flannel shirt, a green vest also covered in pockets, and a matching green wide brimmed hat, which his long white hair spilled out of.

“Yeoman Jones, right?” he asked quickly.

“Um…yes, sir,” Jones said, unable to stop herself from looking past him at the pile of objects scattered on the floor behind him: two fairly sizable cases, a net on a pole, and two other long pole-like implements. Was this an interview or an interrogation? Was resistance to torture a prerequisite to getting into the Academy?

“Good,” Fonn said, dragging her focus back to him as he stood aside so that Jones could enter. “You can help me carry this stuff.”

“We’re going somewhere?” Jones asked, even more confused.

“Unless you think we can catch something while sitting on my sofa,” Fonn said with a chuckle.

“You mean like a disease?”

“Fish, Jones,” Fonn said, scooping up a pole and holding it out to her. “We’re going to catch fish.”


“Little creatures that swim. Grab that case, and let’s go. We’re wasting my holodeck time.”

“I’m sorry to be dense, sir, but you’re going to interview me on the holodeck?”

“I’ve had this time scheduled for a while, and I don’t see any reason to give it up just so we can chat here. We can talk just as easily sitting on a nice, sunny riverbank, don’t you think?”

“I guess so,” Jones said. “But…I’ve never been fishing before. I don’t think I’ll be able to catch anything.”

Fonn smiled broadly. “If you’re trying to catch something, you’re missing the point,” he said, grabbing up the other case and pole. “After you, Yeoman.”

Well, Jones had to admit that this would probably be preferable to being hammered with questions by Fonn in some formal setting. Better to let some fish get grilled instead of her.

The purchase order padds sat on Ih’mad’s desk as the Andorian stared blankly out of the windows of his small business office at the rear of the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet into the restaurant’s kitchen. For a time after Ih’mad threw Baughb out of the restaurant, he was so overcome with rage that he’d done nothing but scream at the kitchen staff, which was hardly fair considering the skill and dedicated they showed in their work. He was too blinded with fury to care, though. Finally, his anger spent, he retreated to his office and collapsed into his chair determined to bury himself in business minutia. There were spleens to order, after all.

But the padds remained untouched. Ih’mad had not been able to focus on anything other than his former waiter. How could he think that blending Andorian cuisine with that of other cultures was a good idea? It was…

It was not the point.

The point was that Ih’mad felt betrayed. Baughb didn’t want to be his waiter anymore, and, more than that, he’d come back to Waystation to open up a competing restaurant! By rights, Ih’mad should march right up to the little z’annsk with a nice sharp kh’lezzt and jam it right into his fraszznit!

A pounding on his office door snapped his attention out of his thoughts of vengeance. The door burst open, admitting Du’vht, his prep cook. “Someone is here,” she announced, obviously annoyed to be the one to deliver the message. Of course, she was also most likely a bit miffed at Ih’mad for the way he’d attacked her carrot slicing technique.

“Who is it?” Ih’mad asked.

“He is wrinkly,” she said in disgust.

“Is that a name or an adjective?”

“Do not mock me with your grammar!” she snapped.

“Send him in,” Ih’mad said. “Then go cut something!” Du’vht bowed her head quickly, then stormed back out into the kitchen.

“I said cut something!” he shouted after her. “Not someone!”

“K’vaaatzz!” she screamed back. Moments later, a bulbous figure stepped into the doorway. He was indeed wrinkly, but that was because he was a Zakdorn. Wrinkles kind of came with the package.

“Mister Ih’mad,” the Zakdorn said by way of greeting as he entered the office. “Thank you for seeing me. I am Mister Auditmi, Acting CEO of Dillon Ent…”

“I know who you are,” Ih’mad said. “You’ve more than made your presence known at the meetings of the Waystation Merchants Association.”

“The interests of Dillon Enterprises must be represented,” Auditmi said with a slight bow of his head. “In fact, that is why I am here.”

“I cannot see how the interests of Dillon Enterprises have anything to do with me,” Ih’mad said

“Actually, in this instance, our interests and yours intersect, Mister Ih’mad. May I sit down?” Auditmi said, gesturing toward the chair opposite Ih’mad’s desk.

“Fine,” Ih’mad said. “Just let me deactivate the spikes.”


“Nothing to concern yourself with. Now, Mister Auditmi, I am a busy man. Please get to whatever point you have to make, so that I can get you out of my office.”

“Very well. I believe I can sum it up in a word: McBaughb’s.”

Ih’mad tried to hide his surprise at this, but his antennae shooting straight up in the air probably gave him away. “You know about that then?” he said, attempting to maintain a level tone to his voice.

“I was informed when the help wanted ads hit the station network a short time ago.”

“At least it’s nice to know that Dillon Enterprises isn’t omniscient.”

“We try to stay abreast of information that can affect our operations. And based on the available information, it appears to me that presence of McBaughb’s would be…undesirable.”

“And what information is that? The help wanted ads?”

“Not hardly. I contacted some sources at the Andorian colony where Mister Baughb has been living for the last few years and learned that he has already piloted some of his recipes and ideas there to off-worlders of various species visiting the colony. The response was rather favorable. I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but our concern is that McBaughb’s will cause a decline in sales at our Double D Diner. Dillon’s Restaurant, since it provides a far more elegant dining experience, would not be affected. Your operation, however, most likely will be. Two Andorian-themed restaurants, one of which provides meals tailored to a wider array of palettes and serves those meals in a fraction of the time. It’s not hard to imagine that the slower, more traditional establishment will come out the loser in this particular battle.”

The Zakdorn ended his statement with a quick flash of a smile as Ih’mad stared at him with a cold intensity.

“Of course,” Auditmi continued, “we cannot restrict commerce on the station. Who knows? Perhaps a bit of competition could do us both some good. I guess we’ll be finding out…unless some unfortunate circumstance were to prevent the opening of McBaughb’s.” Auditmi fell silent, leaving the room quiet for several moments. Auditmi shifted in his seat.

“You are very bad at this,” Ih’mad said finally.

“It’s not really my area. I assume you got the message, though.”

“It was somewhat hard to miss.”


“And you don’t want me to respond to that.”

“I don’t? No! I don’t! Absolutely not,” Auditmi said, quickly rising from his seat. “It’s been a pleasure talking to you.”

“No, it hasn’t.”

“That is true as well. It will hopefully be mutually beneficial, though.”

“We shall see,” Ih’mad said thoughtfully.

“In that case, I will leave you to it. Not that there’s anything that…oh never mind!” Auditmi fled the office before he said anything else.

With the Zakdorn gone, Ih’mad considered what had been not-so-subtly suggested. Taking some kind of nefarious action would certainly be an improvement over the impotent fuming he’d been doing up until now. And it’d been a while since he’d engaged in any clandestine sabotage. Why not go have some fun?

It was really a perfect day for fishing, which wasn’t all that surprising considering that they were in a holodeck and able to order up whatever weather conditions they wanted. Of course, Yeoman Jones was also assuming that this was perfect fishing weather. It certainly seemed perfect to her. Sunny, but not blinding. Warm, but not too warm. A nice, but not too cool breeze blowing by.

Frankly she would have been content to just sit there and relax for the rest of the day. If only that pesky interview thing wasn’t nagging at the back of her brain. Actually, it was more like the front. She’d been able to think of little else for the entire half hour or so that they’d been in the holodeck. Admiral Fonn, however, seemed to have little interest in doing anything beyond reclining on a river bank with his line in the water.

“Jones,” he said finally, snapping the yeoman to attention.

“Yes, sir!” she said crisply. This was it. Finally she’d be able to get this over with.

“Woah. Relax. You’re scaring the fish.”

“Sorry, sir. You wanted to say something?”

“Yeah. Hand me that basket beside you.”

“Oh. Yes, sir,” she said, deflating. She grabbed the heavy case and hoisted it over to Admiral Fonn, who flipped it open with his left hand, keeping his right hand wrapped around his fishing pole at all times. Inside were several different containers of food, one of which Fonn placed in his lap and opened, releasing a stench unlike anything Jones had encountered anywhere in the galaxy. She fought to keep a straight face and not flee as Fonn picked a stringy greenish grey bit of plant matter up out of the container and shoved it into his mouth.

“Nothing like homemade!” he said with a happy sigh. “You want some?”

“I ate before our meeting,” Jones said weakly.

“Just a nibble?”

“No thanks.”

“That’s okay. Nothing else seems to be nibbling either.”

“I thought that you said catching the fish wasn’t the point,” Jones said.

“It’s not,” Fonn replied. “It’d still be nice, though.” He continued putting handfuls of the substance into his mouth, then put the empty container aside before opening up another, which let loose an even fouler odor.”

“Ponouli?” he offered, holding the container out to Jones. She took one look at the foamy red substance and instantly regretted it. She shook her head quickly. “I know. I know,” Fonn said. “You just ate.”

“Thank you anyway,” she said politely.

“So,” Fonn said after a few more minutes of chowing down on the various foods he’d brought along (No matter what happened today, Yeoman Jones knew she would be leaving this experience with one new-found bit of knowledge: Efrosian food stinks). “You want to be an officer, huh?”

“Yes, sir,” she said eagerly. Finally they were getting to the interview part of this interview!

“I can’t say that I blame you. It’s not too bad at the top. So have you got a speciality in mind or is this just a way to stop being a yeoman?”

“I want to get into security,” Jones replied.

Fonn let out a low whistle. “You’re certainly not taking the easy route to a desk job, now are you? What would make you want to leave your nice hospitality job for something like security.”

“The captain feels I have a knack for it,” Jones said with a shrug.

“Do you?”

“Well…I guess so. I’ve really enjoyed the security-type things I’ve had to do from time to time. And Lieutenant Commander Russell says I’m a natural with a phaser. When the Collectors were attacking us, I shot a bunch of them, and it just felt right. Like I was doing what I was always meant to do.”

“So you’re either a born security officer or psychologically disturbed,” Fonn said.

“I really don’t like hurting people. I’m just good with a phaser,” Jones said quickly, worried that Fonn was about to recommend that she be admitted to Tantalus V instead of the Academy.

“I’m just joking with you, Yeoman,” Fonn said with a grin. “People have all kinds of talents. But security is more than shooting people from a safe distance. There’s a serious physical requirement. You think you’re up for that.”

“I smashed a desk with my bare hands once. Just a hand, actually.”



“Ahhh. You know Karate?”

“The colony where I grew up was very boring. It kept me busy.”

“Okay. So boredom incites you to violence.”

“That’s not what I…”

“Kidding, Yeoman!” Fonn said, cutting her off.

“Sorry, sir.”

“It’s okay. It just shows me that you’re serious about this.”

“Oh I am. I definitely am.”

“And you’re willing to put in the work that the Academy is going to require?”


“Okay. That’s…” Fonn trailed off as his gaze shift from Jones to something behind her and his smile faded into a look of confusion.

Jones turned her head and saw that they were no longer alone. A human male in an Earth Park Service uniform had just emerged from the woods a bit farther down the river and was heading their direction. He didn’t look at all pleased.

“I don’t remember requesting him,” Fonn said.

“He looks like a park ranger,” Jones said. “If you asked the holodeck to recreate a park on Earth, he may just be part of the program, since he’d be in the actual park.”

“Remind me to be more specific next time.”

“What do you think he wants?”

“I can’t say that I care. This is my holodeck program, and I’m here to fish, not deal with the local bureaucracy. Would you deal with him?”

“Um…okay. Sure. I guess,” Jones replied, getting to her feet just as the park ranger reached them.

“Ma’am,” the park ranger said, tipping his hat politely. “Sir. How are you today?”

“Fine,” Jones said. “It’s very pretty here.”

“It is, isn’t it? Of course, it will only remain pretty if scum- sucking pieces of filth like yourselves don’t mess it all up.”

Jones choked slightly at the ranger’s words. “Did you just call us…”

“Scum suckers,” the ranger snapped, cutting her off. “Did you think we wouldn’t notice? Did you think you could come in here and rape this river without permission? Where is your permit? Where is your fishing license? WHERE? I’ll tell you where. NOWHERE! We don’t give licenses to fish in this pristine waterway. You’re going down! Both of you! And I’m going to make it my personal mission to make sure that you two wastes of DNA are thrown into the deepest, darkest dungeon we can find where you’ll spend the rest of your days enslaved to a sadistic Nausicaan who’ll do the same thing to your asses that you’ve done to this river!”

Jones gulped hard and looked back to Admiral Fonn for some assistance. The elder Efrosian very carefully set his fishing pole aside, got to his feet, then broke down laughing hysterically.

“YOU THINK I’M FUNNY!” the park ranger bellowed.

Fonn was gasping for air by this point.

“WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING AT!” the ranger screamed, growing even more agitated.

“If it’s any consolation, I’m not sure what he’s laughing about either,” Jones said.

“He’s not going to be laughing for long,” the ranger said darkly. Suddenly, his right arm, which had been at his hips with his finger hooked in his belt loop, flickered and reappeared extended at Fonn, a phaser in his hand.

Instinct took over Jones, sending her diving at the ranger’s arm just as he fired the weapon. She knocked the blast aside, causing it to only graze Fonn’s arm. On the bright side, the ranger had gotten his wish. Fonn was no longer laughing. Instead, he was gaping in horror at the sizzling fabric of his shirt.

“But that can’t happen. The safeties…” he said.

“The holodeck safeties are off!” Jones exclaimed. “Computer, end program!”

“Chualitfuowoooooo,” the computer replied, its voice a mechanical groan.

Nothing happened. The river, the forest, and the furious park ranger were all still there.

Oh why couldn’t this ever be easy?

And why were the ranger’s eyes now glowing red?

“You’re about see how we do things in the park service,” the ranger said, his voice reverberating unnaturally.

“Can I get a rain check?” Jones asked. Before the ranger could respond, she went into a roundhouse kick, catching him on the side of the head and sending him flying into the river, where he promptly sank under the surface.

“Nicely done!” Fonn said.

“Thanks, but I was aiming for his hand. I wanted the phaser. I’m a bit out of practice.”

“You did fine,” Fonn said, watching the river and waiting for the ranger to reappear.

“Did I kill him?” Jones asked concerned.

“I hope so,” Fonn said. “We need to find a way out of here.”

“Um…Admiral,” Jones said, pointing downstream to where the ranger was now climbing up the riverbank, dripping wet. He flickered again and was suddenly dry with a fresh phaser in his hand.

“What the hell is going on here?” Fonn said.

“Who cares? Let’s go!” Jones said, grabbing Fonn’s arm and dragging him away from the riverbank.

“But my gear…”

“The hell with your gear!” Jones shouted. “Sir,” she added sheepishly. A phaser blast searing over their heads punctuated her point. The pair took off running down the river.

Some movement in the water caught Jones’s eyes. She glanced over and screamed.

Thousands of fish heads were bobbing above the water, watching Jones and Fonn with glowing red eyes as they fled.

“Away from the river!” Jones cried, yanking Fonn into the woods. She heard a horrible screeching coming from behind them. Looking back, she saw that the fish were actually climbing out of the river and padding after her and Fonn on their fins, screaming as they charged by the thousands. She didn’t know that fish were even capable of producing sound.

The trees would provide some cover at least. But they could only hide for so long, especially if every woodland creature was going to be after them as well.

She had to think. How were they going to get out of there if the computer wasn’t responding? Normally, she’d just call for help, but if the computer was acting up, it wouldn’t route the comm correctly. It was worth a shot, though.

“Jones to Ops,” she said, slapping her commbadge.

“Eeeeerrrrrooooot,” the computer moaned.

So much for that. Of course, the computer did respond, which meant that it was not ignoring the comm signal, which meant that maybe, just maybe, she could get some kind of message to someone on the outside.

She began frantically tapping her commbadge over and over again with her left hand as she scooped up a meter long fallen tree branch with her right, swinging the stick a few times to get a feel for it.

“Tell me you’re not planning to attack the fish,” Fonn said concerned.

“Only if they attack me first,” Jones said, continuing to smack her commbadge as the pair ran and ran and ran for several minutes through the seemingly-never ending forest.

Jones skidded to a halt suddenly. Their path was blocked. “Oh no,” she muttered, looking down at the family of brown rabbits that had planted themselves in their way. The rabbits hissed, revealing a mouthful of sharp fangs as they watched Jones and Fonn with the same glowing red eyes that seemed to be a theme in this nightmare.

Fonn put a reassuring hand on Jones’s shoulder. “I know they’re cute, but you’re going to have to…”

“AAAAAIIIEEEEEEEE!” Jones screamed suddenly, launching forward with her make-shift club and laying into the rabbits, all the while continuing to smack the commbadge on her chest. Seconds later, it was all over.

“AH-HA!” a voice exclaimed from behind them. They spun around to see the park ranger stalking toward them, his army of evil fish flanking around Jones and Fonn. “So you massacre bunnies too! There isn’t a torment hellish enough for the likes of you!”

“I don’t know. This is coming pretty close,” Fonn muttered.

“You shall know a new kind of agony as my friends here nibble you down to the bone! Prepare to be fish food!”

Jones moved herself in front of Fonn protectively and took her club in both hands. “If you see an opening, run. I’ll hold them off as long as I can,” she said grimly.

“I don’t think it will help, but I appreciate the sentiment,” Fonn said. “I just wish I had a stick of my own…or a bomb.”

“A bomb would be nice,” Jones agreed.

“Commence nibbling!” the park ranger cried. The fish surged forward in a ravenous wave, moving to overwhelm Jones and Fonn…

…and then everything went dark.


Jones knew she was alive, but she couldn’t see a thing. Then, gradually, the yellow grid of the holodeck flared to life, providing some much needed illumination. She and Fonn were alone with his pile of fishing gear. No demented park rangers or evil fish were to be found.

The holodeck doors opened, and Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter strolled into the room, twirling a hydrospanner. “Somebody call a repairman?” he said.

“YES!” Jones exclaimed. “Thank you!”

“Definitely thank you. Not to sound ungrateful, because I’m not, but how did you know we were in there?” Admiral Fonn asked.

“Comm errors,” Porter replied. “We picked up comm channels opening and closing over and over again at a rapid clip and traced it back to Jones’s commbadge. When we couldn’t get through to the holodeck to ask what was going on, we figured out something was probably wrong. I had to come down here and shut the whole system down manually. I hope that was the right thing to do.”

Jones suddenly grabbed him in a huge hug and wouldn’t let go.

“I guess it was.”

Even at 0200 hours, there were still a few patrons wandering the concourses of Starfleet Square Mall, which actually worked in Ih’mad’s favor as far as he was concerned. A lone Andorian walking through a deserted mall in the middle of the night carrying a shoulder pack would undoubtedly draw the attention of the prying eyes of station security. Now, though, he was just one of the crowd, albeit a very small crowd.

Ih’mad strolled past the temporary wall behind which McBaughb’s sat waiting for its grand opening. Busting his way into the restaurant through the front was bound to get him noticed, but there was another way in. He cut down a side corridor to a locked door reading “Mall Employees Only.” This led to the back corridors of the mall, which ran behind the various stores, allowing the store employees to come and go. As a mall merchant, Ih’mad had a code to access the door. Once in the back hallway, it was a short walk to McBaughb’s, where he was presented with another sealed door. He didn’t have an access code for this one, but that wasn’t exactly a problem, considering that he was carrying a beaker of jes’niik drippings in his pack, obtained fresh from Fh’lay as he prepared that night’s dinner special. Ih’mad opened the beaker a safe distance away from his body and poured its contents along the top of the door, allowing them to run down toward the floor. He quickly put an Andorian food service grade towel on the floor to catch the drippings and watched them do their work. In seconds, the once solid door was reduced to a streaked brittle mass.

With a swift knock, Ih’mad shattered the door and stepped over the towel into the interior of McBaughb’s. He was soon in the kitchen, where he turned on the lights revealing a sterile white affair filled with gleaming commercial-grade equipment. Top of the line stuff, and, Ih’mad noted with some amusement, not a single piece of it built by Dillon Enterprises. Baughb had learned a few things from Ih’mad after all. Too bad Ih’mad was going to have to destroy it all.

Just as he was digging in his pack for a few more beakers of jes’niik drippings, he caught sight of an office off to the side of the kitchen, and it looked like it had already been filled with padds and such. Curiosity piqued, Ih’mad headed into the office and slid into the chair at the modest desk to start perusing through padds. Most of it was fairly standard stuff: resumes, equipment and supply requisitions, station business forms. But then he came across a padd filled with recipes. Yaxix lung marinara. K’haazak burgers.

And Ih’mad suddenly realized something.

He was getting hungry.

The descriptions of these abominations of Andorian tradition were making him salivate.

“It was actually unlocked,” a voice said from the office doorway. Ih’mad’s head shot up from the padd and saw Baughb there, gazing at him sadly.

“It was?” Ih’mad said surprised. “Why…”

Baughb shrugged. “I knew you would come, so I thought I’d save you the trouble. I guess it didn’t matter.”

“Not really. Even if I’d noticed, I just would have destroyed the door on the way out anyway. It’s standard technique.”

“I was kind of hoping you wouldn’t pursue the B’asszt Kh’all,” Baughb said. Ih’mad frowned for a moment. The B’asszt Kh’all? He hadn’t faced Andorian competition in so long that he’d completely forgotten about the traditional Andorian rite of competition removal. He could have saved himself all of this skulking about after hours and just demanded a B’asszt Kh’all, killed Baughb in ritual combat, then razed McBaughb’s to the ground (or deck in this case). Was he so far removed from Andor and the traditional ways that he needed a k’zzzaast like Auditmi to goad him into destroying McBaughb’s?

Wait. Baughb thought that he’d called for a B’asszt Kh’all already. That meant…

“Which stazzz blade do you want?” Baughb asked, his voice full of resignation as he held out two objects that looked more like oversized meat cleavers than swords.

“It’s your place. You pick,” Ih’mad said, rising from the desk chair. In all honesty, he really wasn’t in the mood for a fight to the death at the moment. It had been a long day at the restaurant, and he was now hungry after browsing through Baughb’s recipes. But tradition was tradition. He’d just try to kill Baughb quickly, then head back to his quarters for a late snack followed by a good night’s sleep.

Baughb considered the two stazzz blades for a moment, then handed one to Ih’mad. “Should we do this out in the main dining area? There’s more room.”

“Sure. That’d be fine.”

“Good.” The two men exited the office and made their way through the kitchen out into the dining room.

“I like the look of the place,” Ih’mad said, admiring the holo-landscapes of Andor on the dining room walls.

“Thanks. You can have the holos if you want…after you kill me.”

“I think I’m supposed to destroy them with the restaurant. Shame really.”


“If it’s any consolation, I really don’t want to fight you,” Ih’mad said, raising his weapon.

“I don’t want to fight you either,” Baughb said, taking a half-hearted swing at Ih’mad. The stazzz blades clanged together as Ih’mad parried the blow then made a strike of his own, which Baughb blocked.

“Before it’s too late for me to say it, I want to thank you,” Baughb said.

“For killing you?”

“No. For teaching me. You showed me the glory to be had in the food service industry. McBaughb’s would not be here if it weren’t for you. You gave me my dream.”

They circled each other, blades at the ready. “It was a nice dream. I didn’t think so at first, but those recipes… When did you learn to cook?”

“I tried to learn every aspect of the business while I was with you. I felt that if I could be one half the restauranteur you are, I’d have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. You’re…you’re my hero.”

“Then why didn’t you just come back to work for me?” Ih’mad asked.

“It was time for me to put what you taught me into practice. I could have stayed on the colony, I suppose, but I wanted to be here where we could be colleagues. I purposely designed McBaughb’s to be a more causal type of place, so that we wouldn’t be in competition. We may hurt the Double D Diner, but I would never damage the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet. McBaughb’s is a child of Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet more than anything.”

“I’m feeling manipulated all of a sudden,” Ih’mad said darkly.

“I am sorry!” Baughb exclaimed. “It was not my intention…”

“Not by you. This…this is not what I want,” Ih’mad said, tossing his stazzz blade aside. “I was content to fume angrily about your restaurant. I would have gotten over it, though, if that k’vaaaatz hadn’t… No. This ends. I will call off the B’asszt Kh’all.” Not that he’d ever officially called it in the first place.

“You will?” Baughb said, brightening.

“Yes…on one condition.”

“What is that, Ih’mad?”

“You cook for me now. I am hungry.”

“I will!” Baughb cried happily, grabbing Ih’mad in a grateful hug.

“I have a second condition.”

“Anything, Ih’mad.”

“Stop hugging me.”

“Oh. Yes, of course,” Baughb said, releasing his former employer. “Just sit anywhere. I’ll get to work in the kitchen.”

“If you don’t mind, I will join you in the kitchen and eat there.”

“Mind? How could I mind?”

“It is your restaurant.”

“Thanks to you.”

Ih’mad smiled. “That is actually nice to hear now that I am not going to kill you,” he said, following Baughb back to the kitchen for what was sure to be a most interesting dining experience. Andorian Fusion. Hmmm. Maybe it could work after all.

Despite the fact that it was pushing 1100 hours, Admiral Fonn hadn’t bothered to get a shower, much less get dressed. After yesterday’s “fun” on the holodeck, he was determined to go into full lazy mode today. At the sound of his door chime, he did at least throw on a bathrobe, though. No sense treating whoever was at the door to a look at his nakedness. He had a feeling he knew who it would be, though.

He tapped the door control, causing them to whooshed quietly open. Yep. He was right. It was who he expected.

Yeoman Tina Jones.

A look of mortification quickly covered her face. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir!” she exclaimed. “Did I wake you up?”

“No. I was up already,” Fonn said.

“Whew,” Jones sighed. The last thing she needed was to aggravate Fonn now.

“What can I do for you, Jones?” Fonn asked.

“I just wanted to come by and thank you. Captain Beck told me that you recommended that I be admitted to the Academy.”

“You seem like you’ve got the stuff.”

“I think so,” Jones said. She was quiet for a moment as she considered her next words. “Sir,” she said finally. “I know what happened yesterday.”

“You do?”

“It was a test. I didn’t realize it at the time, but thinking about it last night I figured it out. You made up that whole situation to see if I could handle a crisis.”

Fonn stared blankly at Jones for a few moments, then smiled, the corners of his mouth disappearing under his bushy white mustache. “You got me,” he said with a shrug. “And you did wonderfully.”

“Thank you, sir!” Jones replied grinning. “Okay. I guess I should let you get back to your…”

“Lounging,” Fonn finished. “And lots of it.”

“Have fun, sir,” Jones said. She headed off down the corridor, passing Lieutenant Commander Porter, who was heading in the opposite direction. “Hi, Craig!” she said warmly, then turned the corner out of view before Porter reached his destination: Admiral Fonn’s quarters.

“I think I figured out what happened yesterday,” Porter said after Fonn responded to the door chime.

“Thank the Great Bird,” Fonn said. “Was it the program? Was it sabotaged?”

“I guess you could say that, but you’re going to have to deal with the saboteur yourself.”

“Who was it?”

“You…or your lunch rather.”

“My lunch?” Fonn asked confused.

“Yep. Our holographic systems evidently don’t like your cooking. From what I can tell, the fumes from a couple of the dishes combined, seeped into the hologram generators, and did a number on things. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Fonn winced. “I knew I shouldn’t have substituted jirorik for kleanna root in the denivali.”

“Could have happened to anyone,” Porter said. “It’s all fixed now, though. I purged the matrix and had my guys give the whole place a thorough scrubbing. You can rerun your fishing program anytime.”

“Er…thanks, but I think I’m going to pass.”

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Porter replied starting off down the corridor. “Have a good day, Admiral.”

“You too. Oh, and Porter?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Don’t mention this to Yeoman Jones please.”

“Feeling guilty?”

“Something like that.”

“No problem.”

Fonn retreated back into his quarters and let the doors closed. Blissfully alone, he threw his robe off and collapsed onto the sofa.

No, he wouldn’t be fishing again anytime soon.

Lounging around, however, was another matter entirely. He could do that for hours on end…starting right now.

Keeping a handle on all of the various aspects of Dillon Enterprises’ operations, even from a very high managerial level, was something of an art…an art that Mr. Auditmi had not mastered yet. Reports from various Dillon’s Supply Depots, the R&D division, the Starfleet Suites, and a hundred other subsidiary corporations sat scattered around his small office waiting for his review before he prepared a summary report to be sent off to Bradley Dillon, who was currently headed away from Federation space on the USS Explorer.

Bradley would be expecting the summary report tomorrow, which meant that Auditmi was looking at a very long day.

The sound of his office door chime didn’t do anything to improve his mood. The last thing he needed now was an interruption.

“Yes, come in!” he called out testily.

The office door slid open allowing Ih’mad to enter. The Andorian surveyed the chaos of Auditmi’s office and was unable to suppress a smirk. “You have Dillon Enterprises well in hand, I see.”

“Our business is none of yours,” Auditmi shot back.

“Oh but I thought we were in business together.”

“That is a one-time arrangement. One that I assume you have completed to our mutual satisfaction.”

“We’re mutually satisfied,” Ih’mad said.


“But you’re not part of ‘we.’”


“Baughb!” Ih’mad called. The office doors opened again, and Baughb stepped into the room. He quickly took up a position beside Ih’mad as the two Andorians eyed Auditmi in such a way that the Zakdorn had the uncomfortable feeling that he was being sized up for the slaughter.

“This is Mister Baughb, owner and proprietor of McBaughb’s,” Ih’mad said. “McBaughb’s and the Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet have formed a culinary alliance that none can sever. If you attack one of us, you attack us both. Any attempt to damage either of our establishments or to draw away our customers will be met with swift and brutal vengeance. Dillon Enterprises would do well to steer clear of us. Are we understood?”

Auditmi just nodded numbly. How could this have happened? Weren’t Andorians supposed to jump at the chance to slaughter each other?

“You have been warned,” Ih’mad said, turning on his heel and stalking out of the office.

“Do come by for our grand opening,” Baughb said, grabbing Auditmi’s hand and giving it a rough shake before he raced off after Ih’mad.

Auditmi leaned back in his chair and stared blankly ahead, trying to process what had just transpired. Not only had he failed to stop McBaughb’s from opening, but he’d managed to get the two Andorian establishments on the station allied against Dillon Enterprises.

He was just glad that the USS Explorer and, therefore, Bradley Dillon were out of direct comm range. Bradley was not going to be happy after he heard about this one.

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