“Engage!” chortled captain Stone of the ISS Rubble.
Nothing happened. Stone held his dramatic pose, but his eyes turned in his sockets to glare at the chief engineer. Time passed beyond the point where Stone felt ridiculous. Finally he dropped the pose (with a sense if injured dignity) and turned completely to face Ms. Fletcher, who was staring wistfully at the main view screen.
“It’s Ms. Fletcher if you please.”
“What did you want me to do again?”
“Engage, avant, move, travel!”
Stone rolled his eyes and waited. Fletcher fiddled with a control panel.
“Well?!” Stone asked after a few minutes.
“I’m working on it.”
Stone drummed his fingers on his chair. The rest of the “bridge” crew sat around. Suddenly Stone pointed at one of the crew members.
“No Facebook while we’re waiting!”
There was an audible “awwwww” sound as several crew members slouched in their chairs.
“Aaaaand there!” crowed Fletcher.
The main view screen lit up and stars blurred across it, the Rubble seemed to be moving at incredible speeds. Captain Stone looked happy. Abruptly, this ceased. There was silence on the bridge.
“Ummm....where are we, helmsman?” Stone inquired after a few moments.
“Well, near as I can tell, we’re about 3 meters from where we started.”
Ms. Fletcher punched the air.
Capt. Stone covered his face with his palm.
“But that could have been drift.”
Ms. Fletcher looked crestfallen.
With his hand still covering his face Capt. Stone asked “Is the n-space drive in any shape for another ‘attempt?’”
Ms. Fletcher frowned and turned back to her console. Presently she said “Yes!”
Capt. Stone looked up, surprised and said “Well that’s a nice change of pace.”
Oblivious, Chief Fletcher said “At least 10cm of the distance we travelled cannot be attributed to drift!”
Capt. Stone gritted his teeth “About the jump, Mr.”
“Oh, hang on a sec.” Fletcher pushed some button and static erupted from her console. “Damn n-space drive causing problems with the intercom again.” she grumbled. Then she raised her voice to a shrill yell.
“Cowalski! Are you there?”
Static came back over the intercom then “Uh...yeah?”
“Can we jump again?”
“Oh, then prepare for another jump.”
“Well, I meant sure, eventually we’ll be able to jump again, but right now, things are pretty foobar.”
“Well, how long till we’re ready?”
“I don’t know, a couple of hours?”
Fletcher looked over at Capt. Stone who got up and walked off the bridge in a huff. “I’ll be in my quarters!” he said as he got into the lift. The doors closed with a futuristic “swish” followed by an “Aieeeeee!” sound as the elevator malfunctioned and sped off at a breakneck speed.
“Oh, you might want to take the stairs...” Fletcher trailed off as she noticed that the captain had already left.
* * * *
Engineering was pretty chaotic thanks to the recent jump attempt. Two n-space drive specialists were trying to figure out what had happened when head n-space physicist Cowalski (PhD) made a disturbing discovery.
He tried to take a sip of his coffee and noticed his mug was empty. This was all well and good except that he noticed that the coffee that used to occupy the cup was hovering a few feet away. It still had the same shape as one might expect the liquid to conform to, except that there was no mug to hold it.
Cowalski considered this for a little while and then tried to “capture” the liquid in his mug. This seemed to work, so he shrugged and went to take another sip. Empty mug. Cowalski frowned and then noticed that the coffee had teleported to another location.
“Hey Jackson, check this out.”
A rather tall and thin man with brown hair looked up from his terminal.
Jackson stared at the floating coffee.
They both turned and looked at the n-space drive, which was humming quietly to itself.
“Maybe we should stop the test of the neutrino-inverse-tachyon field.” said Cowalski in a distracted tone of voice.
“Yeah, I think you’re right.”
Jackson tapped a few keys on his terminal and the n-space drive, which looked like a jury-rigged microwave oven with a blue glow coming out of it, switched off. The coffee fell out of the air and splattered on the floor. Jackson sighed.
Cowalski looked pained and hit a key on his workstation. “Emergency wet clean-up in engineering.”
“What is the nature of the spill?”
Came a reply from the computer.
Cowalski and Jackson exchanged a look.
“Just send Squisher up here...and make sure he has a mop!”
A few minutes later a young man with a determined look and a mop appeared at engineering. He stood there for a moment, as if waiting for something, but neither Cowalski nor Jackson so much as looked up. Crestfallen, Squisher cleared his throat.
Cowalski took notice and said “Could you clean up this coffee please?” and then went back to staring at the screen of his computer.
Squisher grumbled something about “emergency” but got to work. A short time later Jackson looked over at Cowalski and said “Hey! We could try a positron out of phase inverse taychon bean with a magnetic shield on the core and see if the n-space perks up!”
Cowalski stared at Jackson for a second and said “Don’t you mean tacyon beam?”
Jackson grew red in the face and responded with “Just turn the damn thing on!”
Cowalski flipped a switch and the gravity in engineering reversed. With a crash, the terminals of both men hit the ceiling. After a moments struggle, so did Jackson. He glared at Cowalski, who himself was hanging from a desk that was fortunately bolted to the floor.
“Alright, alright! Turn the stupid thing off!” Jackson said from the ceiling.
Cowalski had a strange look as he hung there, as if considering something.
“You know, maybe a bean would work better!”
“Just shut up and turn off the n-space.”
Cowalski roused himself from thought and tried to figure out how he might reach the switch. He finally settled on kicking the stove-like device a few times which seemed to do the trick. The gravity reversed again and the equipment that had been on the ceiling fell back down to the deck. Along with Jackson.
“Hey Jackson: I feel like there’s something...missing.”
Meanwhile, sanitation engineer ensign Squisher (JG) found himself in a strange place.
Where the hell did that coffee go?
He had the disturbing feeling that he was both inside and outside of the n-space drive - at the same time - and what’s more, he couldn’t find his mop.
Now how am I going to clean this up?
* * * *
Meanwhile, Capt. Stone was feeling for bumps on his head after his run in with the elevator.
Giving up in disgust, he punched a button on a nearby console.
“Ms. Fletcher, what’s our situation?”
“Hi there Steve, this is Bamby...”
Stone looked annoyed and hit another button.
“How long till we can try another jump?”
“Hmmmm. Not really sure.”
“Well could you please find out?”
Cowalski and Jackson were in the midst of a heated argument when Fletcher checked in with them.
“I tell you that legumes are perfectly good n-space substrates!” Stated Cowalski
“Nonsense! What if you tried that with snow peas?” Retorted Jackson.
“What’s wrong with snow peas?”
“Well, the pod casing could cause a disruption in the plus spin direction of the...”
“Well obviously you have to take them out of their seed casings first!”
Just then one of the consoles chimed and Fletcher came on.
“Gentlemen, when will the n-space drive be ready for another jump?”
“Ummm...in five minutes maybe?” Cowalski looked at Jackson with a questioning glance. Jackson shrugged.
“Yeah, we should be ready in five minutes.”
Five minutes later the two were no closer to being ready, but they had ruled out chick-peas as a possible candidate for n-space use. The intercom chimed and Fletcher came on again.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
Jackson looked confused “What you want to try kidney beans?”
“Oh right, the jump!”
Cowalski looked guilty and flipped a switch.
* * * *
Meanwhile, in an adjacent dimension...
Ensign Squisher experienced a kind of annoying itch that he couldn’t localize to anywhere on his body. He fidgeted about in an attempt to get it to stop.
Abruptly, the Rubble shifted into what the occupants of the ship could only describe as a 2-dimensional feeling. Jackson and Cowalski abruptly broke off their discussion of the relative merits of different legumes and tried to shut off the n-space drive. This turned out to be very difficult when one only occupies 2 dimensions.
“I told you we should have tried kidney beans! What do you have to say now, Jackson?”
“Shut up and see if you can reach the switch!”
Meanwhile Squisher “shifted” again in his non-spatial existence.
The Rubble shifted again, this time the occupants seemed to occupy more than the accustomed 3 dimensions.
“Cowalski, can you reach the switch now?”
“Well, maybe we can rig a...”
“I meant that lima beans would obviously be a better choice than kidney beans!”
“You fool! How could...”
* * * * * *
Stone considered the bandages. In some alternative, 3rd dimensions, he had a bump on his head. In some he did not. He only had one set of bandages.
Stone frowned and flipped on the intercom. At least in one alternative. He couldn’t be sure which alternative of all the alternative realities actually did this and which ones did not.
“Medical assistance to the captain’s quarters!”
A person bearing a first aid kit promptly showed up in his room. Unfortunately, this was in one of the alternatives where he was uninjured.
“Can you jump to one of the alternatives that could use that?” He asked.
“Of course he can’t! How can you be so stupid?”
“Don’t talk to me that way, I’m the captain!”
“No you’re not, I am!”
Immediately, an argument about who was actually “in charge” broke out amongst the alternatives.
* * * * * * * *
Back in engineering, Cowalski and Jackson had concluded their discussion on the merits of various legumes. Or at least some of them had.
By sitting on Jackson’s shoulders, Kowalski was at last able to reach the power button on the n-space drive.
“Can you reach the damn button now?” asked Kowalski.
“Yeah, I think I can...”
Just then, one of the alternative Jacksons chimed in with “What if we used a swallow?”
Kowalski paused “What do you mean, an African or a European swallow?”
The various alternatives began a heated discussion about the use of avians in n-space drives.
“Shut up and just hit the switch!” Pleaded Cowalski.
Grumbling to himself Jackson flipped the power switch and things returned to normal. More or less. In the reality that the two found themselves, however, Kowalski was holding a chick-pea and Jackson was brandishing a banana.
“I though we were done with legumes.” Observed Cowalski.
“Well this is an interesting idea.” Said Jackson, considering the banana.
* * * * * *
Meanwhile, in an alternative dimension, Squisher distinctly heard some elevator muzak.
Turning around, trying to identify the source of the sound he got the impression that something was wrong. It was then that he realized he was inside out.
“I don’t remember eating that.” He mumbled, considering something in his colin.
* * * * * *
Back in the captains quarters, Stone received a call from engineering.
“Captain, we think Ensign JG Squisher has gone missing.”
“Was he wearing a red shirt?”
“Was he wearing a red shirt when he went missing?”
“I...I’m not sure.”
“Well let me know when you find out.”
There was a pause as the person from the other side considered this.
“He may have had a chick-pea when he vanished...”
In the background Stone heard another voice
“Alright, it could have been a Kidney bean.”
Stone rubbed his square jaw.
“Kidney beans are red, aren’t they?”
“I think so.”
“Let’s have a meeting.”
* * * * * * *
Later on in the “situation room.”
“So it’s decided...kidney beans are red.”
Stone punctuated his statement by pounding the table gently with his fist.
Fletcher was staring at him.
“And they say I’m flakey...”
Kowalski raised his hand and spoke.
“But what about Squisher? Was he wearing a red shirt?”
“Now stop that.” Cut in Kowalski.
Stone glared at the man.
Meanwhile Fletcher had taken out a Rubic’s Cube.
“You know, one advantage to the n-space drive is that in some other realities, I had solved this. If we could harness that...”
Stone cut off that line of discussion.
“When can we get this bucket of bolts to go anywhere?”
“Well we could try another jump...” Fletcher looked over at Kowalski and Jackson.
“The banana isn’t ready yet.”
“Bananas are yellow.”
“He makes a good point.” Stone said, leaning forward.
“The thing about how bananas are yellow.”
“No, but who said that?” Jackson said, looking around.
The 4 people looked around and then considered the intercom. After a time Kowalski said “Well, if nobody else is going to claim credit for that insight...”
“I did.” Came a voice from the intercom.
“Damn.” Kowalski crossed his arms.
“Who are you?” Inquired Fletcher.
“This is ensign Squisher.” Replied the intercom.
“Ensign Junior Grade” corrected Kowalski.
“And where are you?” said Stone, ignoring Kowalski.
There was a pause.
“Ummm...I’m not sure.”
“And did you clean up that spill yet?” added Jackson.
“Um...no. I can’t find my mop.”
Stone sighed. “Couldn’t we just ignore this whole problem until we manage to go somewhere? Preferably with some race of beautiful, green-skinned alien women?”
Jackson and Kowalski perked up.
“Well I think this is really sort of important...” Said fletcher thoughtfully.
Stone stood up. “Make it go!”
“But the banana!” Objected Kowalski.
“Damn the bananas! Full speed ahead!”
The two engineers got up to carry out the captain’s orders, but the door from the conference roomed refused to open. Jackson smacked into the door and rebounded into Kowalski.
“Now wait just a minute!” Ensign Squisher cut in.
“This is insubordination!” Growled Stone.
“Aren’t you supposed to be concerned about your crew?”
Stone glanced at Fletcher.
“Huh? How should I know?”
Stone considered this. “You know, maybe we should have more of a ‘people person’ in this meeting.” He punched the intercom. “Councilor...wasname, to the situation room!”
An abnormally tall man walked stiffly into the room.
“Am I supposed to be concerned about the...the what did you call them?” The captain turned to Fletcher.
“Crew” Fletcher supplied.
“Right! Am I supposed to care about the crew?”
The tall man stared at the captain without comment or expression for a bit. Stone shifted about nervously and glanced side-long at Fletcher as if to say “This is a ‘people person?!!’”
The tall man made a low half-groan half-growling sound. Turned and left.
“See? He agrees with me!” Said Stone, gesturing madly. “Now you two, jump!”
Kowalski and Jackson looked at each other, shrugged and jumped.
“Not like that!”
Squisher came in on the intercom again “Hey if you want to go anywhere, you’ll have to input the coordinates directly into the drive.”
“What?! That doesn’t sound very high-tech!”
“Well, you can tell these two clowns they should have used something other than a microwave oven to base the whole mess on...”
“It was his idea...” Jackson said pointing at Kowalski.
“Fine! Whatever!” Stone grumped and stalked out of the conference room.
Down in engineering, Stone approached the keypad to the microwave/jump drive.
“Erm...just what coordinates are we trying to get to again?” He looked questioningly at the other three.
“You were never that clear on where we were supposed to go...” Said Fletcher apologetically.
“Fat lot of good you are.” Stone grumbled. Jackson helpfully tried to give the captain a banana. Stone glared at the man.
Stone leaned over the keypad and was about to tap in a sequence of numbers when there was a flash of light.
* * * * * *
“Orbit the planet, open hailing frequencies...or whatever.” Barked captain Squisher from the command chair. The bridge crew seemed remarkably unperturbed by the sudden change in command and moved to obey the captain.
“Bah! Why’d you bother to go there?! Anyone can tell that this planet is lifeless!” The now whiny voice of the previous captain came from the intercom.
“Shaddup you!” Squisher snapped.
Just then the main view screen lit up with the face of a beautiful, green, female alien.
“Hot damn!” chortled Squisher.
“Some people have all the luck!” whined the captain.