Admiral Michael Nezbomb was a lot of things to a lot of people -- mostly intimidating and unpleasant things -- but to Captain James Clerk, he was a lot more. Granted, he was still intimidating and unpleasant, but ever since he took the Captain under his wings, he showed a little bit of what few suspected him of even having: a heart. Since Nezbomb never had any children of his own, he finally had somebody to use up all his parental instincts on.

"Better him than us," was the catchphrase around campus.

To Nezbomb, Clerk was the son he never had. To Clerk, Nezbomb was the father he never wanted. Generally, things worked out between the two, and having a mentor among the admiralty never hurts at the Academy. Still, the Admiral had a special knack for capitalizing on (and exacerbating) any given crewperson's anxiety.

It was his major when he was a student.


Timing was crucial here. The Admiral had equal disdain for people who were either early or late. Clerk kept his eye on his watch as he made his way down to the Guest Suites.

"58... 59..."

Clerk pressed the doorbell, only to find that when the door opened, Admiral Nezbomb was standing there with arms folded, none too pleased.

"You forgot to synchronize your watch, didn't you?"


Nezbomb sighed. "You're 44 seconds late. Obviously, I've made far too few visits to your ship lately."

No, you're fine, really. "Sorry, sir, I--"

"Can the excuses. I scarcely slept a wink last night, so I want to go ahead and get this stupid inspection over with." He stepped out into the hallway and headed straight for Sick Bay.

Great. Cranky and sleep-deprived.

While they made a bee line for what hopefully did not contain a sick Gorn, a light bulb went off over Clerk's head. Wait a minute. Did he say "get this over with"? As discretely as he could, he grabbed his communicator and started typing.


Lt. Whatsisname was still assessing the state of the Problem Areas on the ship. Sick Bay wasn't too high on the list. The biggest thing was Cecil. He made a quick call to see if the Gorn had been discharged yet.

Dr. Flüshaht answered. "Let me guess. The Admiral's on his way."

"Yep," Whatsisname replied with a sigh. "What's his status?"

"We're trying to get him checked out as soon as we can, but dealing with his medical records is a headache for the ages. I've got two diplomats on the line and a crack team of programmers trying to up the accuracy of the translations. So far, we've ordered 6 tons of ice cream, insulted their Head of State, and crossed a Norse saga with 'Jack and Jill went up the hill', so we're--"

The front door opened up, and the entire Sick Bay fell silent. Nezbomb surveyed the scene.

"Doctor Flüshaht, I presume," Nezbomb said flatly.

"In the flesh. What can I do for you, sir?"

"Didn't you die last season?"

"That's the rumor."

"Good to have you back in service, I suppose. Now the first--"

Cecil picked that moment to walk back in from the Medical Records Department.


Nezbomb had always heard of people being speechless, but had never personally experienced it... until now. He didn't like it.

"What... is... that... GORN... doing here?!?!"

Clerk stammered for at least 15 seconds before being able to utter an actual syllable. "Don't... you re... member... the..." What's that called again? "The... Officer Exchange Program?" Yes! I remembered it!

"I was unaware we were doing so with non-treatied parties," came the Admiral's barely-restrained reply.

Wow, not as caustic as usual. Maybe he's softening in his old age? "You'll have to talk to my yeoman about that. Apparently she set it up."

"Janet Rind, still?"

"Yes sir."

The tension in the room eased up as Nezbomb, sighing heavily, visibly relaxed. "That woman's going to get us all into trouble one of these days."

No arguments there.

"So," Nezbomb said as he turned to Cecil, with a somewhat playful half-grin on his face. "What's your name and position?"


Now the Admiral had experienced speechlessness twice. Remaining strangely calm, he turned to Clerk and spoke under his breath. "Watch it, Jimi. One more stunt like this and I'll have both of you polishing up your résumés."

Clerk could barely squeak out a reply. "Yes sir."

Flüshaht and the rest of his staff rushed to get Cecil discharged while Admiral Nezbomb, somehow blurring the line between livid and catatonic, carried out the rest of what turned out to be an abnormally perfunctory inspection. Clerk stood still. Breathing wrong could get everybody fired at this point.

"That does it for here," Nezbomb said tersely. "On to the bridge."

The bridge?? "Um, according to the itinerary, we're going to Engineering next."

"I think I know everything I need to know about Engineering."

Uh oh.

As the Admiral led the way out of Sick Bay, Captain Clerk reached for his communicator again.


Lt. Whatsisname spit out his coffee. "Wharf! Emergency Plan 1B! Quick!"