Captain's Blog, Stardate... um... this thing keeps blinking "12:00" so I have no idea. Anyways, we are still in orbit around Venetian IV, holding various conferences and all that. However, we have just received a call from some unknown, masked individuals who apparently have some sort of deal to make, or threat, or something. I have a theory or two as to what they're up to, but I haven't yet gotten that information out of them.

Clerk stopped the recording and handed the recorder over to Yeoman Rind, who promptly took it to the Podcast Room for publishing.

"Now that you are done with your little diary, Captain Clerk, can we talk now?" the main masked man, who was still on screen, said after a pause and a sigh.

"Yes, we can," the Captain said sardonically. "Let's start with why you're calling in the first place, and why you're concealing your identity."

"One thing at a time, dear Captain. As for the purpose of the call, I'm sure you're quite aw--"

"Hey, just a second." Clerk interrupted. "Your voice sounds really familiar. Have we met?"

"No! Of course not. But we will soon, that is certain."

"Okay, just checking. I thought you might have been one of my--"

"AHEM! I'm sure you're quite aware that something from your ship is missing."

"Someone, yes."

"Yes, of course. I--"

"Show a little dignity, man."

"Can we get on with this?"

"Fine, fine. Do your spiel."

"Sigh. Well, you've nearly ruined it, now, Captain. I can't even get a word in without you interrupting me."

"It's against our ship's bylaws to let important sentences be finished on the first try."


"Just kidding. Go on."

Wishing he could reach through and punch the captain on the screen, the masked man took a deep breath to regain his composure, and continued.

"As I was saying, I'm sure you've noti--"

"You already did that part."

"I did? Oh, right. Ahem. We have been searching out this individual for months, and tracked him down to your ship. We were on orders to kidnap him immediately..."

I can't imagine why. What would anybody want with Jed Jenkins? His extensive knowledge of comic books, maybe?

"...and make a deal with you, if you wish to get him back."

"That's it?"

The villain looked about as surprised as one can look under a mask. "What do you mean, that's it? We just kidnapped somebody and are holding him at ransom!"

"To get what you really want."


Clerk shifted in his seat a bit and stroked his chin. "So... why didn't you just get what you wanted in the first place instead of kidnapping somebody and then bargaining? You guys are way overdoing this. You could have saved a lot of trouble here."

"Well... uh..."

As his masked nemesis looked around nervously, Clerk continued. "I don't mean to be insulting, but this is actually kind of a dumb way to do it. Unnecessary effort, in my opinion. I mean hey, around here, we don't even always take the necessary effort, much less anything unnecessary."

"So you run a tight, efficient ship?"

"No, we just never get anything done."

"Ain't that the truth." Rind muttered under her breath.

"Getting back to why we're here--"

"If you insist." Clerk interjected gleefully.

Pounding his fist, the masked villain pointed at Clerk. "You'll regret this mockery!"


One of the henchmen leaned in to his leader and whispered to him, "Happy place, sir. Happy place."

Another deep breath. "Getting back to why we're here, we have your beloved officer here, and if you want him back, we have readied a time and place for in-person negotiations."

Aww, do we have to?

"Now, we will not discuss the price just yet, but we do intend to get paid handsomely for his return."

Why? He's not handsome.

"And like you have said, we too are busy men. Well, some of us are." he said, glaring at the henchman to his left. "So we want to get this over with as soon as possible. Ergo, if you want to see your beloved Admiral back, meet us at Stevia II in two days."

"Two days? That's as soon as possible?"

"Well, uh... we... have... stuff... to do..."

"Suit yourself, man, but, we've got nothing going on tonight. The poker tournament's been cancelled, the cable's out again, and Venetian IV isn't exactly Excitement Central."

"Yeah, but, we've already got the space rented out, and it's non-transferrable. The deposit we had to pay was enormous."

"I know, right? Negotiation spaces are way too expensive these days."

"You're telling me. This is our third kidnapping this month, and we're really feeling the pain."

"Alright, then," Clerk relented. "See you at Stevia II in two days."

"That's right."

"And can we please have a name to call you by? All I've got is the masked man or something like that."

"You can call me... Otto."

"Alrighty, Otto. See you in a couple of days."

"Yes," Otto said, immediately ending the transmission.