Space...the final frontier. These are the voyagers of the...ah who cares?
|"Sir, an unidentified alien ship of unknown design is approaching us from the Vega quadrant!" |
The crew turned towards the screen in anticipation.
There was a light cheer from the deck as the colorful explosion erupted onto the screen. There's no sound in space of course, but the captain pressed the 'BOOM!' sound effect button just as the alien ship vaporized. A few of the geeks measured the explosion and checked the tables of their fantasy space war teams as the rest of the crew went on with their lives.
The only one not celebrating was the captain. This was serious. He'd have to put all other things on hold and deal with this immediately.
"Lieutenant Gibbs, I need to see you in my office, right now."
Gibbs stopped checking his notes and strode immediately into the Captain's office. Don was gazing thoughtfully out his window at the vastness of space. Occasionally a random piece of debris would reflect off the window, usually either a small meteor, piece of the alien ship, or an empty pack of cigarettes.
Don noticed that one of the packs was only half empty. It was his favorite brand too. Could he send someone out to get them? He’s captain after all, it’s not like they…nah, on second thought, that was far too demeaning a task to make anyone do. Besides, there were more important matters at hand.
"Gibbs, we've talked about your shouting."
The Lieutenant looked a little uncomfortable and nervous, despite the fact that he was a full foot taller, thirty pounds lighter and twenty years younger than the captain. Of course, standing in the captain’s office was intimidating enough to scare anyone, as upon his desk were a jar filled with medals, a modified hand blaster, and the skull of his evil twin.
Gibbs wringed his hands behind his back and stammered,
"Unknown aliens...were approaching us from..."
Captain Donald happily interrupted him, a smile upon his face. He loved being angry.
"Yes! Yes! Aliens of an unknown type were approaching us from parts unknown and it’s our job to BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH! Listen, we don't have to fly off the handle just because some nobody aliens are rushing us. You know very well that things have been a lot different since they passed the ANCA..."
The ANCA, or 'Absolutely No Crap Amendment' was unanimously voted in by the entire United Federation of Planets two years prior. It was introduced long before then, but it was voted down nearly unanimously year after year, right up until the year Earth successfully ejected every other planet from the Federation besides themselves. The ANCA imposed the following twelve restrictions upon all other alien races:
LAW 1: Knock it off.
LAW 2: Absolutely no more Galactic Senates. They suck.
LAW 3: Check with us before doing ANYTHING.
LAW 4: No psychic powers that involve melding minds...in fact, don't touch us at all.
LAW 5: No fair looking human. Grow horns or something.
LAW 6: We end all communications that begin with 'We're not so different'.
LAW 7: No universal consciousness hippie shit.
LAW 8: Our blasters no longer have stun settings. Not a law, but a friendly FYI.
LAW 9: Either use mechanical translators or learn Universal Standard (Spanish).
LAW 10: We reserve the right to slap you on a whim.
LAW 11: Shut up.
LAW 12: Go to bed.
"But sir! We can't just..."
"Yes we can! That's the whole point, Gibbs! Any ship that comes up without hailing you is going to either attack us or have a monster on board!”
Gibbs had heard such statements before…from every other member of the crew for that matter…but he wasn’t about to give up so easily.
“But sir, what if it’s a friendly race that needs our help?”
Captain Don stared up at the poor naïve fool. He’d been reading too many independent holo-news programs, no doubt. Don shook his head and stated matter-of-factly,
“It’s been well documented that every alien race is either evil, useless, or insane.”
The captain was more or less quoting the Universal Encyclopedia, volume A, word for word.
“Even if they didn’t mean to kill us, then they’d just be useless idiots anyway! Be it space plague, planet sized monsters or creator races back to show us the error of our ways, it's always Earth that has to save the day! Remember the Synoks?"
"REMEMBER THE SYNOKS?"
Lieutenant Gibbs looked down at his well polished boots as his Captain continued,
"One race of giant bugs terrorized the ENTIRE galaxy for a millennia. Thousands of planets feared total annihilation. The entire Galactic Senate’s military force was eliminated to an alien. All seemed hopeless and bleak, until a SINGLE Earth ship came into orbit and within FORTY-TWO MINUTES..."
Captain Donald rubbed the top of his bald head and pressed against his temples,
"For the love of...yes?"
A screen on the wall flicked on, revealing a beautiful, dark haired, middle aged woman. Don forced himself to smile and act pleasantly (as per the court order) as he responded to his ex-wife,
She stared at the captain with an annoyed smirk, responding with an expectant,
The captain rolled his eyes and attempted to greet her again,
"YES, MISS JOHANSSON?"
Miss Johansson gave a cheerful little grin, paused for a moment longer and then finally answered,
"The potential alien ambassadors have been waiting seven hours for their screening, which is..."
"Yes, yes...Graves is hosting, right?"
Miss Robinson closed her eyes and began to purr.
Gibbs could hear the captain's teeth scrape and strain against each other, but Don held his legally required smile like a pro. His ex-wife gave a pleasant chuckle and added,
"Oh you two always get along so well! He was such a great help to us when we were having problems during our marriage...well, more of a help to me...”
"YES! Very good! Just give him clearance to handle it himself.”
Miss Johansson didn’t seem to be hearing him though. She seemed dreamily lost in thought as she continued,
“…and more to the end of the marriage...”
“…and mostly during lunch breaks…"
The screen went blank.
Ah 'OFF'. They could legally drive him to insanity, but that couldn't take away his 'OFF'. The Captain kicked his feet up onto his desk and muttered to Gibbs,
"Seven hours...man...I only meant to keep them waiting six."
Gibbs scratched the side of his cheek and pondered,
“Shouldn’t you handle this yourself sir? They will be representing their respective species.”
Donald almost forgot he was chewing out the Lieutenant. Gibbs really should’ve ducked out of the room during the distraction. Hell, that’s how Don made it to Captain. Well, that and blackmail.
Before continuing the brow beating, the captain casually replied,
“Lieutenant Graves knows how to handle delicate situations like these.”
“I WILL PERSONALLY EXECUTE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU GODDAMN SPACE LIZARDS THAT SO MUCH AS LOOKS AT ME FUNNY!”
The large, cold ship hanger went from being filled with the sound of angry alien muttering, to dead silence. Every last potential ambassador stared at the young, grim faced human in front of them. His complexion was darker than most of the other humans, and his hair was cut almost all the way to his scalp, but what the aliens noticed more than anything else were his wide, furious eyes.
“FORM A LINE!”
As the aliens quickly shuffled into a line (and briefly argued over their respective positions within said line), Graves continued,
“As you various space monsters may be well aware, we are in a space hanger. As you freaks of the cosmos…”
A gray, squat being stepped out of line and declared, in broken Universal Standard,
“How dare you! My civilization has ten thousand years of…”
Graves fired his blaster into the air. Technology was at the point that blasters made no sound, but Graves had rigged his to make it ring out like a shotgun. When the room was silent once more, the tall, young Lieutenant called back,
“What your civilization HAS is another YEAR before it can apply again! OUT!”
The captain may have had OFF, but Graves had OUT. Out were two large guards, each carefully trained in the subtle art of dragging people away. They were both human, but their appearance and builds were more similar to hairless gorillas. Graves found the one on the left working in a prison, and the one on the right starting a fight in a bar. The remaining potential ambassadors kept quiet.
“As you various creatures may be aware of is that I, and every other employee of the United Federation within this room, are wearing what we call SPACE SUITS. That way, if anything bad happens, such as an attempted attack, alien virus, or bomb goes off or whatever…all we have to do is open the hanger door, and everything in this room flushes out into space. Shuttles pick up the living one by one, and then bat the corpses into the nearest sun. BEGIN!”
After a moment of confusion, the first ambassador stepped up, flush with anger. The alien (of the Giopi race) knew that the human’s tirade couldn’t possibly be focused upon his incredibly powerful and influential race. Regardless, he had been forced to wait for seven hours, and that was far too much for a great Giopian to bear. The giant, featherless duck waddled up to the Lieutenant and began, with his beak in the air,
“Listen human, while your race were mere apes in the trees, the invincible army of…”
Graves dropped the ambassador with a single punch, stepped over his unconscious body, shook his slightly numb hand, and then faced the next applicant, who resembled a slightly nervous bipedal cow,
“Too slow. Back of the line.”
The cow fidgeted and looked around, uncertain. Graves restated himself,
“BACK OF THE LINE!”
The alien rushed back, as a barely dressed, mostly human looking (only with ridiculously long ears), beautiful female ambassador slipped forward. Her slender stomach was bare and exposed, her chest was barely concealed, her legs were draped in the finest nearly transparent cloth, her feet were bear, and her hair was long and as black as outer space. The gorgeous potential ambassador placed her slender hands upon Grave’s shoulders and cooed,
“I am of the Erothi, and we shall happily perform any task that you and your race reARGHHH!”
Graves gripped upon her hair with one hand and her jaw with the other, forcing her mouth open. He then carefully examined the many rows of large, jagged teeth within her mouth. Graves nodded and muttered,
“Carnivorous females, eat males after mating, yadda yadda yadda…”
It was nothing he hadn’t seen before. Graves casually tossed her aside, and ‘out’ held her off as she viciously snapped her teeth in Graves’ direction.
Graves skipped the next few,
“Ugly…lizard…doing the evil ‘tapping fingertips together’ in front of face…”
He stopped in front of a small furry bear, not much larger than a human child. It smiled meekly and held up a single yellow flower towards the Lieutenant.
Without a word, Graves lengthened his stride and stepped over it completely, bumping into a giant bear-elephant looking alien in the process. In response, the beastly creature gave Graves a small shove back.
Graves’ blaster leaped to his hand (modifying the gun to leap was tricky, but worth it) and he shoved it into the disgusting creature’s face. The creature gave a snort and replied, in a thick accent,
Graves gave a small chuckle (but didn’t smile) as he called back,
The other ambassadors, and ‘out’, watched expectantly, as the two began calling back to each other,
Graves took a deep breath. He was dying for a cigarette. He sneered at the giant space monster’s small beady eyes and announced,
An ensign frantically ran up, handed the giant alien a welcome packet, and then ushered him towards the ‘welcome’ room. The alien didn’t budge until the ensign assured it that there was food there. The alien behind it, a weird buggy creature, then began flapping all six of his arms in the air, crying out,
“That’s my body guard! He isn’t applying for…”
Graves’ face tightened up again.
“Are you insulting my new friend?”
“BACK OF THE LINE!”
The next alien was almost human, albeit a bit more amphibious, and wore a mask over his face, to help him breathe the air in the ship’s environment.
Graves yanked it off with a single tug.
As the creature fiddled with it, desperately trying to get it re-attached, the lieutenant rolled his eyes and announced to all the potential ambassadors,
“If you can’t breathe oxygen, then you’re just not trying hard enough.”
Graves shoved the panicked creature back, stretched his neck, ignored the hovering brain, waved in the floating ball of light without a word, and as the ensign tried to figure out how to hand the energy-being a packet, Graves found himself in front of the cow again.
“We of the Vorlon Sphere…”
Graves decided to show a little mercy. It couldn’t be easy, being a cow. As the alien began to ramble, the Lieutenant twirled his right hand in the ‘wrap it up’ motion.
“Trade with half of known…”
Graves extended his hand a mere inch from the creature’s face.
“Stop there. Trade? Weapons? Agricultural? Technology?”
“All three actual…”
Graves whistled and pointed at the Cow. As the ensign rushed up to give the alien a packet, Graves stepped up to the same bug creature from before. The lieutenant’s face flushed with rage, as he howled,
“YOU COULDN’T GET IN FRONT OF THE COW?! WHAT THE HELL IS HUMANITY SUPPOSED TO DO WITH A RACE THAT HAS TO WAIT BEHIND A COW?!”
“…and then I slapped him twice!”
Captain Donald nodded approvingly.
“Very good, Graves. Well done. Anything else of interest?”
Graves, now back in his standard uniform, stepped up the captain and whispered conspiratorially,
“Well, there’s this INCREDIBLY hot alien chick among them who wants to consummate her race’s union with ours by mating with the captain of our ship…”
Captain Don nodded thoughtfully and mused,
“Wow! That sure sounds like a great…HEY! Are you trying to get me eaten by an alien, so you can move up in rank?”
“YOU GOT ME!”
As they shared a good natured laugh, every alarm in the room suddenly went off at once. A high pitched feminine voice, selected from the very shrillest of Earth’s nuns, cried out,
“RED ALERT! RED ALERT!”
Captain Donald slammed his fist down on his desk, and even Graves flinched a little. With a press of a button, the Captain cried out to the deck,
Gibbs’ familiar voice rung out,
“Sir! We have a distress call from…”
Don growled and yelled at the computer,
“Downgrade to Code Orange!”
“But sir, the…”
Don seemed to calm down almost at once, and he casually asked his second in command,
“How do you feel, Graves?”
The young officer shrugged and responded,
“Honestly? I feel downright mellow.”
“Very good! Computer, downgrade to Code…Teal.”
The light in the room went suddenly bluish green, and the computer played a recording of the ancient actor Ben Stein saying,
A few moments later…
Captain Donald leaned out the door of his office, pointed at the blushing Lieutenant Gibbs and growled,
“You’re now restricted to orange only! Red will not be used unless you and the rest of the crew are already dead!”
Gibbs’ fellow crew members began consoling him with supportive cries of ‘oooooooo’ and ‘you’re in trouble’, as the Captain strode angrily to his desk, flopped back into his chair, stroked his fingers against his bare head and announced,
“You know what? Screw it. I’m not even leaving the room for this. What line are they on?”
A voice cried out from the deck,
Don pushed the button and heard terrified, alien screams coming out of the overhead speaker. A deep, wheezing voice called out,
“Please! We’re being destroyed! The technology we’re facing is unlike any we’ve ever…”
Captain Donald groaned and asked, in a dismissive tone of voice,
“Ship, monster or pure energy…you know what? It doesn’t matter. Did you try the ‘everything we’ve got’ button?”
United Federation of Planets regulations required all allied aliens to have every weapon at their disposal hardwired to fire at the push of a single button. That way it’d save time when they all failed at once.
“Yes, and it…”
“Does it speak? Have you tried logic puzzles and reading it passages from the Official Earth Handbook of Trite Philosophy?”
“Yes, but it didn’t…”
“Do you have a normal method for dealing with this kind of thing?”
“Yes, but it…”
Captain Don snapped his fingers and nodded approvingly at his second in command. The alien voice cried out,
“Yes, but that’s…WAIT! Of course! That’s ingenious! It’ll reverse the flow of the…”
Don leaned forward and impatiently interrupted the alien emperor of whatever planet they were speaking to,
“Yeah, thanks for calling, bye bye…”
A startled cry and small explosion blared from the speaker just as Don’s hand hovered over the call button. The captain rolled his eyes as the alien’s panicked voice returned,
“It’s no good! It just isn’t harming it enough to…”
Don rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands and muttered,
“Try aiming for the middle…or the shiniest part of it. Which ever’s more applicable.”
At first there was only silence from the speaker. Was it over? The captain and his first officer spent the incredibly tense moment exchanging rude gestures. Eventually, the quivering alien replied,
“You mean…the shiny middle part?”
Don let his face land directly onto his desk. As the captain slammed his hand onto the back of his own head (in an apparent attempt to break his skull open on the table), Graves glanced up at the intercom, and in his most serious voice replied,
“Yes, my friend…its shiny…middle…part. Make it so.”
As Graves left to use the restroom and Captain Donald continued hitting himself in the head, a tremendous explosion erupted over the transmitter. The sound of a hundred alien voices simultaneously cried out in triumph, as the captain spun a single finger in the air.
Slowly, carefully, Don lowered the same finger towards the off button, just as the alien’s voice returned,
“Thank you, captain! You will be recorded in our in our history books as the savior of our entire race!”
Don raised his head up slightly, rested his chin on the edge of the table, and tried to sound as happy as possible,
“The way you combined creativity and logic to find a solution is nothing short of historic!”
“Great to hear!”
“Your deeds will be retold throughout time, from zagmar to darklar, for generations to come!”
“Go to hell!”
“You know, we aren’t so different, you and…”
Captain Don leaned back in his chair, his hands once more upon his head. Graves stepped back into the room, mentally commanding his fly to refasten as he entered (the Psy-zip, by the way, was voted best invention of the year in 2636 A.D., and again in 14 A.M.W.).
The two men exchanged glances, as the captain mused,
“Why do we put up with this?”
Graves looked at the ceiling, stroked his chin, and then after some careful thought, he offered,
“Uh…the nearly limitless power?”
Captain Donald rubbed the back of his head, mused over it himself, and then nodded.
“Yeah, it’s probably the power. I kind of wish it was a little more difficult though. Space aliens are just so fricking stupid.”
Graves shrugged, gave a short salute, spun in place, and then strolled towards the door.
Out of nowhere, the captain had a sudden attack of conscience. He called out to the young officer,
“Graves…I have to admit something. I didn’t actually have to leave you and the ambassadors waiting for so long…I just wanted to annoy my ex-wife’s boyfriend.”
Graves’ smile didn’t fade,
“Yeah, I know. It’s okay.”
The Lieutenant honestly didn’t seem affected by the news as he stepped out onto the bridge, pressed a few keys on door’s keypad, and casually added,
“Oh, and I just wanted you to know…I stole your keys.”
As the door slid shut, the captain couldn’t miss the distinct sound of a clicking lock. Technology had gotten to the point that doors didn’t click when they locked, of course, so Graves had the sound installed.
The captain immediately rushed to the door, futilely pressed the key pad and then slammed his fist against it a few times before shouting through it,
“I SWEAR TO GOD I’LL SET THIS THING TO SELF DESTRUCT! YOU HEAR ME?!”
The only thing he heard was laughter.
Donald made a silent vow of ridiculously violent revenge that would be fulfilled the very second he FOUND HIS DAMN KEYS!
“Computer, where the hell are my keys?!”
Miss Johansson’s voice cooed over the intercom,
“Did you leave them in your other pants?”
“I SWEAR TO GOD…”
“Can’t you see them?”
Don knew that tone of voice. It was playful, but serious. She wouldn’t use that tone of voice unless she could back it up. They keys had to be in there.
Under his evil twin’s skull? No, that’s where he left them a few days ago, and obviously where Graves found them…
In the jar of medals? Captain Donald dumped them out, but no dice…
Under the gun? No…
On the shelf…by…the…window…
At first they were merely a speck in the captain’s peripheral vision. Don slowly turned his head to face the window. His face pressed firmly against the glass as he stared at his ring of keys, floating out in space.
A small camera lens poked out of the wall. Despite being separated from the bridge by a sheet of solid titanium, Captain Donald could clearly hear the howls of laughter.
With a casual click of his thumb, Captain Don set his blaster to autofire.
Several brilliant blasts of energy erupted through the door, sending shards of pure titanium flying into the wall opposite it.
After a minute or so, the captain casually stepped through the twisted wreckage, blaster still in hand, and he turned towards his loyal crew, to check and see if anyone 'wanted some'.
They did not 'want some'. In fact, they were all avoiding his gaze, intently typing away at their respective stations as if nothing had happened. Graves and Miss Johansson were nowhere to be seen.
Gibbs was the only member of the crew who honestly appeared to be working, and probably hadn’t stopped working, even through the explosion. Don gave a sigh and groaned,
“Have someone in maintenance fix the door.”
“Then personally go out and get the keys that are hanging outside my office window.”
“Right away sir!”
“I’m going to bed.”
“That’s funny sir, because lieutenant Graves and Miss Johansson were just saying the…”
Gibbs didn’t like the captain’s expression one bit.
“Uh…your keys, right sir. Anything else, sir?”
The captain lumbered off towards the lift. Before leaving, he took one last look through the gaping hole in his office door, and added,
“While you're out there...get me that pack of cigarettes.”