Encounter at Farfetch

From WChmara@gnn.com Fri Oct 18 18:02:40 1996
Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 08:16:56
From: Walter Chmara
To: djtst18+@pitt.edu
Subject: First submission

“Encounter at Farfetch” by Walt Chmara

Captain’s Log, stardate 41150.7. Pot-luc Retard continuing the tradition of baldly going where no personage of no particular gender, color, or species has gone before, at least to our current knowledge, so as not to offend any one or thing. I am new to commanding these Gargantua-class starships, so I still am in awe of its size and complexity. My last command was the old Constipation-class vessel, the U.S.S. Annoyance, which I lost in a battle with the mysterious Earringi, so, naturally, Starfleet has given me a larger, more heavily populated ship, with children aboard, no less. My current assignment is to pick up the remaining portion of my crew at Farfetch Station, and in the process, figure out how those Bundi shmucks built that damned thing.

“We have an extremely difficult task ahead of us, eh, Mr. Doodad?” Retard said, as he sat down in the command seat on the bridge.
The goofy-looking robotroid buzzed and hummed its way out of one of the two recliners near the viewscreen, and assumed an “at-ease” stance before the captain.
“Difficult?” it repeated. “My memory banks have no such term listed.”
The captain’s mouth dropped open. “Mr. Doodad, how can you be programmed as a virtual encyclopedia of human knowledge, and not know a simple word like `difficult’?”
The robotroid considered for half a mo’, then said, “Encyclopedia, sir?”
“Never mind. Just plot a course for Farfetch Station.”
“Course?”
“Just do it!” barked Retard.
When everyone else on the bridge gave him a worried look, Retard cleared his throat and grinned at them, slightly embarrassed at the loss of his cool.
“Farfetch Station. Even the name sounds mysterious.”
That made Retard jump out of his seat. Somehow, a woman in a cheerleading outfit had sneaked onto the bridge and sat down beside him, without him noticing! He was getting old.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
She leaped up, swinging her arms wildly. “Gimme an “H”, gimme an “E”, gimme an “L”, gimme an “E”, gimme an “N”, gimme an “A”, gimme a “T”, gimme an “R”, gimme an “O” and a “Y”! Helenaaaa TROY, yaaay!”
She sat back down.
Retard gulped. Oh, boy. “Say, you’re the ship’s shrink, right? That pathetic Betamax?”
“That’s empathic Betamax, sir,” she corrected sweetly.
“Quite so. I’ve been hoping to meet you for some time, now, but your schedule seems to be booked quite solid.”
“Ain’t it the truth?” she complained. “Ever since I settled on this look, it seems the entire male population of this ship has developed a need to see me. Go figure!”
She suddenly stood up, did a cartwheel into a wall, grasped her head with both hands, then broke into a Curly circular floor run while hollering, “Whoopwhoopwhoopwhoopwhoop! Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!”
“What is it?” demanded Retard.
Troy sat up on the floor.
“I’m sensing a powerful presence! Powerful, and incredibly stupid!”
She hopped back into her seat, and started to fiddle with a gadget there.
On the viewscreen, a colorful wall began to form in space, right in the path of the ship!
“Sensors say it could be solid or a powerful forcefield,” she warned. “But if we collide with either, it could be — ”
Retard needed a few seconds to think, and he couldn’t think with all that Red Alert noise going on. He ordered his security chief, Lt. Sucha Yarn to turn it off. Bad move. When you travel at hyperlight speeds toward an obstacle, you don’t have the luxury of time. The ship slammed into the anomaly, causing practically everybody on board to suddenly fly into a forward bulkhead.
“Full stop,” ordered Retard, with his head jammed into the back of Doodad’s recliner.
Doodad extricated his jaws from his console.
“Full thtop, thir,” he reported, spitting out a tooth.
There was a flash of light in the center of the bridge, then in its place appeared Gavin MacLeod.
“You are hearby notified that you people have gone too far, already!” snarled MacLeod. “I present myself to you as a fellow ship captain, so that you might better understand me. Go back to your own solar system, right now, or I won’t be responsible for what happens next!”
“That is quite a directive,” said Retard, straightening up, adjusting his uniform by tugging at it here and there, and finally by pulling a bit of his underwear out from his butt crack. “What gives you the right to make this demand?”
MacLeod marched over to a better vantage point. “We call ourselves ` the Y’. Or you can call me that, it’s all the same to me.”
“Who?” asked Lt. Wort.
“What?” asked Yarn.
“I don’t know,” answered Doodad.
“He’s on third,” offered Retard.
“No, no, no! Y! My name is Y!”
“I don’t know!” shrugged Retard.
“Shut up! Don’t start that, again!” Y told him, while changing into Barbara Eden. “Just turn this heap around and leave!”
A Hispanic extra slowly crept up behind Y with a phaser. Unfortunately, Y caught him in the act. Y folded her arms and blinked, causing the poor guy to turn into a goat.
Retard picked up the fallen phaser and showed it to Y, while Yarn called the medics. “This only would have put you to sleep!”
“Sure. And let you have your way with me? You men are all alike!”
Y then changed into Phil Donahue. “Actually, what’s at stake here is patriotism. You must go back and put an end to the conservative menace. If you don’t, my ratings’ll drop even lower, and I’ll be doing my show on PBS with grants from the NEA!”
Retard’s eyebrows went up. “Ooooh! Turn the ship around! We’ve got to get back to…wait a minute! You’re not going to get us that easily, Y!”
Y snapped his fingers in the “Oh, darn!” gesture. Simultaneously, he changed into Sammy Davis, Jr. in judge’s robes and a white wig.
“There are preparations to make, but when we next meet, we are going to prosecute and judge you! Here go da judge! Here go da judge! Here go da…”
Y danced his way out through a bulkhead.
As everyone stood around with their jaws hanging open, two medics came out of the turbolift, immediately went over to the goat, and began examining it.
“Muttonosis,” muttered one to the other.
“Advanced case,” agreed the other.
“Hold it!” interrupted Retard. “You’ve seen something like this, before?”
“Oh, sure,” said one medic, as they both led the goat into the turbolift. “Just last week, we had somebody in sickbay who was a little hoarse.”
Luckily for him, the doors closed before Retard could hit him with a phaser shot. Unluckily for Wort, the shot glanced off the closed doors, and burned the seat of his pants.
Retard faced the robotroid. “Mr. Doodad, search your banks for any
information about doing the starship split at warp speed!”
“Split?” asked Doodad.
Retard rolled his eyes upward and sighed.

The starship Interloper-D peeled off in a stomach-churning sharp left turn, then flashed off at warp nine point two! The janitorial staff had their work cut out for them!
“Hostile is giving chase, sir!” Yarn announced, noting the ball of Jell-O on the screen that was pursuing them. “Accelerating rapidly!”
“Engineering!” called Retard. “We need more power!”
“Och, ah canna do it, Cap’n, muh engines’ll melt into puddles o’ lead!”
Everyone on the bridge gasped.
Naw, it couldn’t be…thought Retard, shaking his head in disbelief.
Doodad, with his gift of mimicry, just sat at the front of the bridge, and quietly chuckled to himself.
“It is time,” Retard rose from his chair. “Lt. Wort, you will command the main bridge.”
Everyone on the bridge gasped, again.
“Sir!” Wort stepped forward. “I’m a Kinky worrier! For me to have that much responsibility is…”
“You are a Starfleet officer, Lieutenant!” Retard reminded him.
“Aye, sir. But you see my point. I was afraid I might forget something like that…”
That was all Retard managed to hear before the turbolift doors closed behind him, on his way to the battle bridge.

“Start firing photon torpedoes at the hostile,” ordered Retard, when he made himself comfortable on the battle bridge command chair. He liked this one better, so any excuse to sit down in it was fine by him. “I want Y to be blinded to what we are about to do.”
“He’d have to be deaf and dumb, too, for this tactic to work,” Yarn mumbled under her breath, as she executed the order.
As the torpedoes exploded in front of the ball of Jell-O, Retard ordered the split sequence to begin.
This startled Doodad into dropping the manual he was scanning in order to figure out just how to do that. “Aye, sir. Beginning starship split.”
He entered the command into the console with one hand, while crossing his fingers on the other.
At the front of the ship, where the windows of the Ten Forward lounge were, a vertical crack appeared. The crack reached up past the numbers on the hull to the top of the main bridge, then went down the other side of the saucer where the shuttlebays were. It proceeded down to the impulse unit of the stardrive section, then went on to the rear torpedo tube.
The next instant, the port side of the ship was slowly veering to the left, while the starboard side was veering right.
Retard watched this with an ever-reddening face.
“It’s a shame we blinded Y to this,” noted Yarn. “If he saw this, he’d be laughing so hard that some of us might’ve escaped!”
Before Retard could respond to that, the Jell-O ball overtook them.

He found himself, Yarn, Troy, and Doodad, now sitting in a very convincing recreation of a mid twenty-first century courtroom. A small Oriental fellow was blithely ringing a small type of gong.
“Hear ye! Hear ye!” he was calling out. “And welcome all to the people’s court. Judge Wapner will soon be here to try the Case of the Silly Humans!”
“So he’s really going to do it,” Retard whispered to Doodad, who was seated beside him. “We are going to stand trial in his court!”
“What do you mean by `we,’ human?” asked Doodad.
Three spotlights illuminated the judge, Y, who floated in on a hovering bench, to the cheers of all of the spectators.
“I hope you don’t mind,” said Y, “I took the liberty of ordering a little Chinese for everyone.”
Upon hearing that, the small Oriental fellow threw his gong down, and stormed out in a huff.
Yarn jumped up. “What an insensitive and politically incorrect thing to say! You should be –”
That was as much as she had been allowed to say. With a slight gesture, Y froze her solid right where she stood.
Cool, thought Retard.
Y handed a notepad to a soldier, who marched over to Retard, and handed it to him. “You will read the charges, criminal.”
Retard glanced over the list:
1) Impersonating Kirok.
2) Making Trelane and Charlie Evans cry.
3) Making Nomad sterilize itself.
4) Harassing Hortas.
5) Devaluing the quatloo.
6) Killing giant amoebas out of season.
“I see no charges against us, your Honor,” stated Retard smugly.

Suddenly, the air filled with rapid clicking noises. Everyone in the chamber produced guns, shoving the business ends in Retard’s face.
“We plead insanity to the first charge…” he quickly amended.
“Enough!” proclaimed Y. “You stand here accused of being a grievously silly race. Give us one good reason why we shouldn’t pull those triggers!”
“Uh…B-because we might have changed since those acts. Why not test us to see if that is so?”
“So be it, fool!” laughed Y. “This Farfetch mission will be an excellent test! We shall see if you are no longer a silly race!”
The judge’s bench rose up into the air. The last thing the crew saw was Y bumping his head against the ceiling and exclaiming, “Ow!”

Commander Will Spiker was standing on a corner, watching all the girls go by. The corner was in the mall at Farfetch Station. He jumped at the chance to fill the first officer position on the new Interloper, because rumor had it that the counselor on board was a real babe. So he was basically just wasting time here until the ship picked him up.
It was here he spotted the new CMO, Doctor Barely Crucial and her brilliant son, Vastly.
“Dr. Crucial!” he called out.
Vastly Crucial tugged on his mother’s coat and pointed to the man. “Mom! It’s Commander Spiker!”
When the commander joined them, Dr. Crucial didn’t smile or look at him.
“If you’re wondering about Mom, sir,” piped up Vastly, “she’s not really unfriendly. It’s just that she already heard about your reputation, and doesn’t exactly approve.”
“Vastly!” she snapped.
“Oh, I don’t approve of it, either, Doctor,” Spiker quickly explained. “See? We already have one thing in common!”
Crucial gave him a look that could kill, grasped her son’s shoulder firmly and herded him away from the commander with all speed.
Spiker watched them go, shrugging his shoulders. Then he turned and ran into a guy with a woman’s barrette on his face. He would have asked what the hell that was supposed to be, but he figured it was just one of those racial things. So he kept his mouth shut.
“Oh, excuse me, Commander,” the fellow apologized, “but the Interloper has arrived, however –”
“Is this an official report, Lieutenant?” barked Spiker.
The lieutenant snapped to attention. “Sir, Lt. Georgie La Porgie reporting that the Interloper has arrived, but it’s in two pieces, sir!”
“Two pieces? You mean the saucer is split from the stardrive?”
“Nnnnot exactly, sir.”

When Spiker materialized in one of the transporter rooms, the first thing he noticed was the woman who beamed him up (big surprise).
She stood behind the console covered in ice and frost. She didn’t say anything.
He figured it was some kind of a cultural thing, so he didn’t want to call any undue attention to it. He stepped down from the platform and addressed her.
“I take it with the ship being in two distinct halves, that something interesting happened on your way here?”
She continued to stare at him. Her eyes could jiggle a little, and she tried to move her blue lips, but she clearly was in no position to form words yet, though she tried.
“Mmphm. Mph meeph mph mphm!”
He backed away from her, out the door. “Why don’t I just go talk to the captain? I’ll do that. It’s…it’s been nice…chatting…with you.”

“First, I want to bring you up to date on a little adventure we had on our way here,” Retard told him when he found the battle bridge. “Then we’ll talk.”
He motioned Spiker to sit beside a small viewscreen, which he activated. A badly edited jumble of scenes quickly flashed by. The captain, meanwhile, ducked inside his ready room. When this strange presentation was over, Spiker turned to face the empty command chair. The look on his face said it all. That’s supposed to make some kind of sense to me?
Retard was looking quizzically through the starship split manual at his desk, when Spiker entered.
“Not your average run-of-the-mill happening, Captain.”
“It seems we’re alive only because we are on probation. A very serious kind of probation.”
“Did you know you have a crewwoman on board who seems to be, uh, frozen?”
“You mean Lt. Yarn? She mouthed off to a god, and that’s what she got. Since we don’t yet have a doctor on board, she will just have to thaw out on her own. I gather her fingers must have loosened up enough to beam you up. I must remind Doodad to slide her back up to the main bridge after we’re reconnected.”
An intercom chime sounded. “Doodad here, sir. Both halves of the ship have been tractor beamed together.”
“Acknowledged. Commander Spiker will conduct a manual reconnection.”
“Sir?” Spiker’s eyebrows went up.
“You’ve reported in, haven’t you? You are qualified, aren’t you?”
“Yes, sir, but…”
“Then I mean now, Commander.”
Spiker shot him a dirty look, before leaving.
He schlepped to the nearest airlock, put on a spacesuit, grabbed a welding torch, and went outside, grumbling bad words to himself the whole time.

“A fairly routine maneuver, but you handled it well,” Retard complimented him two weeks later.
“Thank you, sir. I hope I show some promise.”
“There is an unsightly seam around the ship, but you can fix that later. Now, I want to discuss your file. It seems Captain Edsel thinks very highly of you. I respect his opinion. One thing interests me, however. You refused to let him beam down to Altair Four.”
“Well, that Krell monster from the Id could still be down there, sir.”
Retard took a sip of his tea. “Good point. I hadn’t thought of that. I’m convinced. You’re the right man for this job, all right. Just one more thing…”
“Yes, sir?”
“Starfleet has seen fit to give me a ship with a load of brats on board. I don’t like brats. They’re so yicky. Just keep them away from me. Understood?”
“Understood, sir.”
“Very good. Because if I ever have to deal with one, you will suffer the consequences.”

Spiker went out onto the main bridge and looked around. Lt. Wort worried that the new exec seemed to be looking for something.
“May I help you, sir?”
“Where might I find Lt. Com. Doodad?”
“He is on a special assignment, sir. He’s using one of our shuttlecraft to ferry an admiral to the Bullwinkle.
“Oh, the admiral,” Spiker nodded his head in understanding.
“Yes, sir. The admiral is a real…I mean…he’s…well…remarkable.”

“Is there some reason y’all want my atoms scattered all over space, bwah?” hollered the decrepit old man at Doodad.
“No, sir. I merely thought that at your age you should not –”
“Now y’all hold it right there, bwah! What about my age?”
“I am sorry, sir. If that subject troubles you –”
“Troubles me?” roared the old man. “What’s so danged troublesome about not having died! Don’t be so gol-darned quick to shove me into that Great Beyond, just yet, bwah! How old do you think I am, anyway?”
“One hundred thirty-seven years, five months, four days, ten hours, forty-seven minutes, Admiral.”
The admiral’s mouth dropped. Unfortunately, so did his dentures, which clattered to the deck. “Dang nab it!”
They both bent down to retrieve them, smacking their heads together.
“Just let me get ’em!” cursed the old man. “Tain’t that feeble, yet!”
But as he grabbed the stray dental work, there was an audible cracking sound emanating from the admiral’s spine.
“Uhoh,” said the old man.
“Is there a problem, sir?”
“I’ve thrown m’back out again. I’ll need your help to straighten back up.”
“Certainly, sir,” Doodad grasped the old man’s shoulders and gave them a yank.
The old man straightened up screaming.
“Confound it! Is there some reason y’all trying to kill me?”
“No, sir. I was merely…”
“Never mind! Explain how you know my age so exactly!”
“I am a robotroid.”
“Robotroid, eh? Well listen here. This is a new ship, but she’s got the right name. You remember that, y’hear? You treat her like a lady, and she’ll always bring you home.”
Doodad considered that a moment. “While I am constructed as a fully functional male, and the ship is often referred to as `she,’ I do not think — ”
The old man kicked him, only succeeding in hurting his own toe. “That’s not what I meant you infernal clanking bucket of…”

Dr. Crucial finished her exam of Lt. La Porgie.
“You’ve been blind all of your life?”
“Mostly,” he answered. “There was a time when I was very young when I had normal vision. But then I accidentally caught my grandmother naked and it was lights out — permanently.”
“And you’ve felt pain all the years you’ve been using this?” Crucial put the ISORE (Instrument of Sight Organ Replacement Emulator) into the lieutenant’s waiting hands.
“Yeah. But I got used to it,” La Porgie snapped it back on his face.
“Hmm,” said the doctor, taking a good close look at it. “So this thing works without any obvious kind of lenses. Just these little wrinkly chambers. You must see exactly like a bug does.”
“Now that you mention it, I always did have this overwhelming urge to flee from slippers, rolled up magazines, and fly swatters.”
The lieutenant excused himself and exited the sickbay. Presently, the captain entered.
“Hello, Doctor! I just stopped by to let you know I’m working on a transfer for you. As soon as it’s approved — off you go!”
She stared at him. “Do you feel I’m unqualified?”
“Not at all! Your record is outstanding.”
“Then you must have something against me personally.”
“I’m only thinking of your feelings, Doctor! To serve with a commanding officer who would constantly remind you of your husband’s death…”
Barely smiled. “If I had any objections, I wouldn’t’ve requested this assignment.”
“Really? It doesn’t bother you that he died under my command?”
“No!”
“That I was the one who ordered him to retrieve my teacup from the antimatter flow chamber?”
“No!”
“And forgot to tell him that the antimatter was flowing?”
“Of course not!”
“You are a saint, Barely. What a tragedy that was. I still miss that teacup. Oh, well, life goes on. I’ll be seeing you around, then!” The captain turned and left, whistling a happy tune.
She watched him go, thinking, I’m gonna make your life Hell, Chrome Dome!

Retard was still whistling when he popped out of the turbolift onto the main bridge. Until he smacked into Lt. Yarn, slowly melting by her post. He could get used to her being this way.
“Did you signal the Bullwinkle, Number One?”
“Yes, sir,” said Spiker. “Your exact message. `Kees mah derri
re, you smelly piece of fromage!'”
Retard chuckled to himself. “And what was the reply, computer?”
Y appeared on the main viewer. “You are being dilatory, Captain! Did you think I’ve forgotten about you?”
Lt. Wort dug out his phaser and blasted a hole in the viewer.
“Neutrogena T’Gel!” Wort cursed in his native tongue. “I was afraid I’d do something like that, someday.”
Retard gave the lieutenant a wry look. “Nice going, Lumphead. What do you do for an encore? Commit ritual suicide?”
Wort turned the phaser on himself. “If you would like, sir.”
Retard waved him off. “Belay that for the time being. Number One, you are qualified to repair viewscreens?”
Spiker’s eyebrows went up “Yes, sir. But…”
“Then hop to it, Commander.”
Grumbling, Spiker went into the turbolift to go down to Engineering and get a viewscreen repair kit. Retard joined him.
During the ride, Retard stopped the lift on deck six.
“There’s someone who’s going to join us here I want you to meet,” he explained.
The doors swished open, allowing Helena Troy to step in.
Spiker’s heart sank.
“Counselor, I’d like you to meet our new first officer –”
“We’ve met,” interrupted Spiker.
“Excellent!” continued Retard. “It’s nice to know my key officers are aware of each other’s abilities.”
Troy just smiled and sent her thoughts to Spiker. Well, this certainly is a surprise, eh, upyurzi? Get anybody else pregnant, lately?

Once the viewscreen had been repaired, Retard ordered Troy to accompany Spiker and himself to the planet’s surface, specifically, the office of Grovelor Al, the leader of the Bundi.
“I am puzzled,” said Grovelor Al. “You have brought a Betamax to this meeting. If her purpose here is to probe my thoughts…”
“Feelings,” corrected Troy. “Nothing more than feelings. Trying to forget my dad was VHS.”
“VHS?”
“Very human, sir.”
“Oh,” said Al, while Troy broke into song. “I have nothing to hide, of course.”
“Wo, wo, wo, feeeeelings,” sang Troy.
“We admire how fast your people have built this station,” said Retard, nodding to Spiker, who grabbed Troy and covered her mouth with his hand. “We may want you to build more on other planets.”
“We are not interested, Captain,” said Al, shaking his head. “We are basically a society of sedentary shoe salesmen, who want nothing more than to make nice Federation people, like you, happy. I’m sorry, but if you can’t accept that, we will be forced to offer this station to someone else. The Earringi, for instance.”
Retard’s eyebrows went up. “Grovelor, my people are bound by what we call the Prime Directive, which means I am not permitted to use any means of coercion on your people, even when it means losing something very nice. But it doesn’t mean I can’t give you some friendly information about the Earringi. They are ten foot tall carnivores with sixteen inch fangs who have a particular fondness for shoe salesmen. We’ll let them know you’re interested. Bye!”
He touched his insignia. “Three to beam up. Energize.”

“What did you sense from him?” asked Retard, as the three of them stepped down from the transporter platform.
“He’s only slightly concerned by what you told him about the Earringi,” reported Troy. “If you really wanted to scare him, you should have told him about the Peggi, the tall redheaded amazons from the planet Wangker, who hunt for husbands and bon-bons.”
“Hmm. I may use that one, later. Number One, did you notice anything unusual while you were down there?”
“You mean aside from the signs that kept popping out of the wall behind the Grovelor, saying, `Help me!’ and `I’m being held prisoner by these shmucks!’?”
“Yes.”
“Well, no, sir, I didn’t.”
“A shame. I have this uneasy feeling that we’re missing a valuable clue to this mystery, somewhere. I want you to go back there, but this time take Mr. Doodad with you.”
“Why him?”
“If he breaks anything else, you’ll be there to fix it.”
“Oh.”

Retard didn’t tell him where to find Doodad, and there were no Kinky worriers around to ask. Spiker wandered around lost from deck to deck, poking his nose into cabins he shouldn’t have. He bumped into a crewman who looked like a lizard man from Sirius.
“Hello, Commander!” greeted the lizard man, with a voice that sounded like two voices. “My name is Willy. You look just.”
Spiker looked at him uncomprehendingly. “Just? Just what?”
“Yes,” nodded Willy. “Very just indeed. May I help you?”
“Oh!” Spiker suddenly understood. “You mean lost!”
“Lost!” repeated Willy. “Forgive. I not English so good speak. Learned Japanese for to be in Godzilla movie.”
“Could you tell me where I may find Lt. Com. Doodad?”
“Forgive. You are Commander in Starfleet, but not know how to ask computer for directions to find officer?”
Spiker turned red. “Yes, that’s right.”
Willy showed him how. The computer even switched on a row of lights in the corridor for him to follow. Idiot-proof. Almost.
Spiker thanked Willy and started on his way.
“Asshole,” muttered Willy.
Spiker froze and turned around. “What did you say?”
“I said, `Ah. So.'” Willy bowed, backing back into his cabin.

“If you would care to enter, Commander?” asked the computer, when it led him to a pair of bulky doors.
“No. I just thought I’d stand here and find a way to grow old gracefully,” said Spiker, sarcastically. “Of course I want to enter!”
The bulky doors separated. Spiker stepped through them, then they closed after him.
“Asshole,” said the computer.

Inside, Spiker found a paradise of trees, grass, chirping birds, and a babbling brook.
“Pardon me,” asked Spiker. “Could you show me where Doodad is?”
Brooke stopped babbling for a moment to point at a tree across the stream, then she resumed babbling.
“Thank you.” Spiker walked across the stream via some wobbly stepping stones.
He got within earshot of the tree, and heard someone whistling the beginning of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” very badly.
As he got nearer, he saw Doodad perched in the tree, repeating a sour note that he had reached in the melody.
Spiker couldn’t take it, anymore. It was driving him crazy. He completed the tune properly for the robotroid.
The top of Doodad’s head popped open, and his positronic brain leaped out, bobbing up and down on the end of a spring.
“Marvelous,” said Doodad, pushing his brain back in and closing his head. “How easily you humans can do that to me. I have yet to do it to myself.”
He jumped out of the tree and landed beside Spiker in slow motion, to the accompaniment of a noise which sounded like old-fashioned bionic limbs at work.
“There are some puzzles down on the planet which the captain would like answered,” Spiker told him. “He wants me to take you on the away team I’ll be leading.”
“I understand, sir. In case I break anything, you will be right there to fix it.”
Spiker looked at him askance. “I took the liberty of looking up your record.”
“A wise procedure, sir, always.”
“Your rank of lieutenant commander is honorary?”
“No, sir. Starfleet Academy. Class of ’78. Honors in probability mechanics and exobiology.”
“Really?”
“No, sir. Not really. It is a story my professors concocted to assuage the doubts of robophobes like yourself.”
“Now that troubles me. Do you consider yourself superior to us?”
“I know I am superior in many ways, sir. But it is my fondest wish to someday become a real boy.”
Was it Spiker’s imagination, or was the robotroid’s nose a little longer than it had been a minute ago?
“Pleased to meet you, Pinocchio. Now let’s get outta here.”
Doodad followed the commander back to the stream, reminding himself to look up that word when he had the chance.
Spiker admired the scenery once more. “Hard to believe this isn’t real.”
“Much of it is real, sir. Beamed in. You know, like the transporter?”
“Yes, of course!” cried Spiker. “So this bush over here is actually real!”
“No, sir. That is a projection on a wall.” Doodad picked up a hefty stone and hurled it at the bush in illustration. For an instant, the image broke up, revealing a gaping hole in the wall (along with someone screaming beyond it), before the image repatterned itself.
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell the captain about this until after we come back from the mission,” cautioned Spiker.
“Understood, sir.”
At the edge of the stream, Spiker and Doodad saw young Vastly Crucial hopping over the stones to reach them. One was loose, though, and the lad went into the drink.
Doodad sprang into action. He dashed over to where the boy had fallen, grabbed his left arm, and yanked.
“You didn’t have to do that,” said Vastly, standing. “It’s only ankle-deep.”
Doodad sheepishly returned the boy’s arm to him. “Take this to your mother, Vastly, and tell her you would like to have it reattached.”
“Okay,” the boy grinned, accepting the limb. “Wow!”

Boys will be boys smiled Barely, as she finished reattaching her son’s arm.
“Mom, could you get me a look at the bridge?” he asked, with a puppy dog look on his face.
“That’s against standing orders, Vastly.”
“Okay, I won’t stand. I’ll sit.”
She scratched him behind his ears, while his left leg began thumping the floor. It was as good a way as any to start getting on Old Baldy’s nerves. “All right. Let’s do it!”

Spiker, Doodad, Troy, La Porgie, and Yarn beamed down to the entrance to some caverns which led somewhere underneath Farfetch Station. Yarn was now almost completely thawed, though she was still hugging herself, shivering and sneezing.
Inside the caverns, La Porgie went over the walls with his ISORE. “I’m scanning in every possible way — microscopically, thermally, electromagnetically — none of it looks familiar!”
“Well, I can see bringing you along was a waste,” said Spiker, dryly. “Troy, how about you?”
Troy suddenly doubled over. “Pain! Agony! Terrible dispair!”
Spiker was by her side in an instant. “Close your mind to the pain. Are you sensing another being? A being in torment?”
“No, sir. I think I ate too much chocolate,” she explained. “Pardon me, while I go over there and puke my guts out.”
Everyone tried their best to ignore her as she barfed beside the wall.

The turbolift doors snapped open on the main bridge.
“Permission to report to the captain,” Barely said, stepping out.
Retard was more interested in what was inside the lift. “What? Children are not allowed on the bridge!”
“Sir, my son is not on the bridge, he’s in the lift.”
Retard faced her. “But the lift is now on the bridge!”
“It is not! The lift is in the shaft, so you can’t touch him,” Barely stuck her tongue out at him.
Retard reminded himself to give Will Spiker a demotion for this.
He cleared his throat. “Oh, he’s your son? As well as the son of the man who died under my command, which you have no problem with me reminding you of?”
“Yes,” Barely said through her clenched teeth.
“Well, that’s different, then. Come on, boy, come out of there! Don’t be shy!”
“His name is Vastly, sir,” said Barely. “You last saw him when…”
Retard snapped his fingers. “…When I brought your husband’s remains to you! Of course! Wasn’t much left of him, was there? A pair of boots with feet still in them, I recall. Come on, boy, don’t dawdle. Get out here!”
Vastly poked his head in, first. He looked curiously at everything as he made his way to Retard. The captain was reminded of a snail with its eyes popped out on stalks.
Retard motioned him to the command chair. “Make yourself comfortable, Vastly. I knew your late father, as your mother no doubt told you…”
The split second the boy’s butt touched the chair, the lowjack alarm went off. Vastly jumped to his feet.
“Hah!” cried Retard. “I got you! You’re standing on my bridge in clear violation of my standing orders! Security! Take him to the brig!”
Two burly men grabbed the lad and hustled him back into the turbolift. Barely screamed, jumping in with them before the doors slid shut.
Retard smugly reclaimed his seat, turning off the alarm.
Wort said, “Sir! There is an intruder vessel approaching. It’s ignoring our hails. I was afraid something like this was going to happen…”
“On screen.”
Something really big was heading right to them. It looked like a pregnant pog. Retard gripped his armrests.
“Raise shields! Get me Grovelor Al on the blower!”
“Yes, Captain?” inquired the Grovelor’s voice.
“It looks as though your Earringi friends have arrived.”
Al’s voice began to blubber. “All right, I confess! We don’t want them here! Please save our sorry butts! I’m too young to be an hors d’oeuvre!”
The intruder ship began to throw massive energy bolts at the planet’s surface.
“Captain, this is Spiker, cutting in.”
“Go ahead, Number One.”
“The Bundi city is taking an awful pounding, sir. Oh, the humanity!”
“What do you see?”
“Total devastation, sir! Boxes and boxes of women’s shoes scattered all over the place!”
“What about the station?”
“Not a scratch, sir.”
Well! thought Retard, grinning. When all this is over, we may just end up with a free starbase here!
At that moment there was a flash of light on the bridge. Y appeared.

Spiker and Doodad dashed through the city, dodging the energy bolts, ducking the flying shrapnel, and gingerly stepping over some stray animal droppings. When they finally reached the doors to Grovelor Al’s office, Spiker found them to be closed and locked.
“Break it open,” ordered Spiker.
Doodad hurled himself at the doors, bounced off, and crashed through a nearby wall.
Spiker sped over to him. “Are you all right?”
Doodad sat up like a stepped-on rake. “All systems operating.”
He got up and charged at the doors, again, this time kicking and pounding on them. Five minutes of this yeilded no results, so Spiker ordered him to stop and back off.
Withdrawing his phaser and shooting off the lock, Spiker turned to him and said, “The only time you can’t break anything is when you’re ordered to, hmm?”
“Ah. So,” said Doodad.
Spiker gave him a double take, before proceeding into the office.
Inside, they found the Grovelor cowering under his desk.
“Make it stop,” he wailed. The next moment, something beamed him away.

Retard glared at Y. Y made a kissy-face right back.
“First officer to Interloper,” said Spiker’s voice.
“Go ahead, Number One,” said Retard.
“We’ve lost the Grovelor, sir. Something like the transporter took most of him away.”
“Most of him?”
“The smell under the table suggests he had time for a pit stop. Question, sir. Could it have been this Y creature?”
Y, who currently looked like Rumplestiltskin, clapped his hands and danced an odd little dance. “None of you knows who transported him! Ho! Ho! Ho!”
Troy, who had beamed back with La Porgie, said, “Captain! I’m sensing satisfaction. Pure chewing satisfaction!”
Spiker was able to hear that down on the planet. “Chew on this,” he grumbled, grabbing himself.
“Y is up here on the bridge, making fun of us,” answered Retard. “Both of you beam up, now. I need you here in case we get into an I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I? contest.”
Spiker and Doodad emerged from the turbolift, minutes later.
“Excellent!” cried Y. “Perhaps more of these little minds might help.”
“What is it you want?” asked Spiker.
“Beam over there with your… What do you call it? Your landing party?”
“Away team!” corrected Retard.
Y stuck an angry finger in his face. “Don’t ever correct me! I’m infullible!”
With that, Y departed in a blinding flash. It took a few minutes of eye-rubbing and blinking before everyone could see straight, again. Even La Porgie was massaging his ISORE.
“You can say that again,” mumbled Retard.
“I’m infullible!” repeated Y’s disembodied head, with a noticeably receding hairline. “Gordon Bennett, another cock-up!” it said before it vanished again.
“I’ll take the away team over, right now, sir,” said Spiker. “If he’s not open to evidence in our favor, what then?”
Retard held his head up high. “I’ll be attending to my duties.”
“To the bitter end?”
“Yes. And speaking of bitter ends, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.”
“Oh?”
“While you were down on the planet, I was accosted by Vastly Crucial. I’m demoting you for that.”
“Sir?”
“From now on, you are Number Two on this ship.” Retard got up and went into one of the turbolifts, ordering it to sickbay.
“I always suspected I was,” shrugged Spiker.

“Is there something I can do for you, Captain?” asked Barely Crucial, inside her office.
Retard cleared his throat and stepped in. “I, uh, I didn’t want you thinking me harsh. Cold blooded.”
Her eyebrow went up. “Why oh why would I think that?”
“For not welcoming you aboard properly. For reminding you of your husband’s demise. For having your son arrested. For..”
“All right, already!”
He offered her his hand. “Welcome aboard, Doctor. I hope we can be friends.”
She looked at his hand, then back to his face. “A good start would be to release my son.”
“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, no.” He withdrew his hand and left her office.

“You’re not going to puke again, are you?” asked Spiker, when the away team materialized inside some caverns on board the intruder which looked exactly like the ones they found on the planet. He had noticed Troy was making faces.
“No, this is…different. Anger. Hate.”
She suddenly kneed him in the groin.
“Chew on that,” she told him.
While the color drained from Spiker’s face, the rest of them could hear someone screaming a few yards ahead.

They broke into a run (Spiker kind of hobbled). Upon reaching the source of the commotion, they discovered Grovelor Al being beset by a giant set of molars. He was already gooey with spit, and the teeth were treating him like a wad of gum.
“Help me!” he cried.
They grabbed him and tried to pull him out, but a large tongue wrapped around his leg and dragged him back in, along with the away team.
After tasting them, the large mouth spat them back out.
“Yuck!” it said.

Back on the Interloper bridge, Retard didn’t like what he was hearing from the away team. Plus the intruder was outwardly appearing to be changing into something else. He tried contacting the transporter room to tell the chief to beam them back.
“He can’t hear you,” explained Y, who was suddenly in Retard’s chair and wearing the same uniform as he was.
“Y,” said Retard patiently, “I have people in trouble over there. Let me help them. I’ll do whatever you say.”
Suddenly, Spiker, Doodad, Yarn, Troy, and the Grovelor, all popped onto the bridge before the viewscreen, though they all looked very drooly and disgusting.
“Take off your clothes and dance the Charleston!” Y said quickly.
Retard sighed. Then did as he was told.
“Sir, what are you doing?” asked Spiker.
“I made a bargain with him,” panted Retard. “To save you.”
“But Y didn’t save us,” explained Troy, pointing to the intruder on the screen, which finished its transformation into a huge jellyfish. “That thing over there spat us out.”
Retard froze upon hearing that. Y was in hysterics.
Then he lunged for Y’s throat. During the scuffle, somebody’s elbow accidentally touched a control panel, causing an energy beam to shower down upon Farfetch Station. It, too, changed into a jellyfish, which slowly rose up into the sky.
Y was still in hysterics, when Retard released his throat. Everyone watched the viewscreen in silent awe, as the two creatures met in space, taking gentle hold of each other’s tendrils. Then one climbed on top of the other and started making little up and down movements. In this position, they both floated away to parts unknown.
Retard slipped his uniform back on and glared at Y. “Get off my ship!”
“April Fool!” cried Y, before vanishing.
For a while, there was silence on the bridge.
“I hope this isn’t the usual way our missions will go, sir,” said Spiker.
“Oh, no, Number Two,” answered Retard. “Something tells me the rest are going to be even sillier.”

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