Captain's Blog, Stardate... 12. Does 12 sound right? I'm going with 12. Close enough. Anyways, something major is apparently going on. We have encountered a strange, unknown Space Cloud that is wreaking havoc on this sector of the galaxy. Picnics are being canceled all over the place, and I'm regretting not having rolled up the windows on my shuttlecraft. Additionally, I'm getting a headache from the Red Alert this thing triggered. I didn't even know we had one of those things. If this is what they're like, I'm gonna have it uninstalled.

Captain Clerk stood silently and watched the reddish blob slowly move across the main screen. Several minutes passed, with the Bridge Crew nervously looking around, wondering when he was going to say something... like, I don't know, an order or whatever.

"So... it's a cloud," he finally said, puzzled. "Why is this a big deal?"

"Well, it wasn't on the weather forecast for this stardate, for one thing," replied Commander Klaa'ck. "It just sort of came out of nowhere."

What is it with Space Clouds, anyways? I mean, seriously?

"Is there somebody we can consult on this?"

"I'll call Stellar Cartography. They're the experts." Lt. Whatsisname said as he sat down at his station.

Minutes later, Ensign Rondo (and his entourage) showed up, crowding the Bridge so much, Clerk expected the Fire Marshall to show up at any minute.

"Hello, Mr. Rondo. What do you know about this cloud?" Whoa. The hype is legit. Those are ridiculously cool shades.

"Yeah, Cap. So, we've, been, like, checkin' it out, and, like, it's all weird and stuff," Rondo began, occasionally stopping for one of his aides to take his picture. "It's not, like, one of your, like, typical Space Clouds or whatever. We're thinking, like, is this one of those sentient dealies or something like that? I mean, this bad boy's not charted, like, anywhere, man. And, like, scanners, are, like, totally telling us it's all, like, unidentifiable and stuff."

I've finally met the man who makes me wish I was talking to Jenkins instead. "So, what are you saying, is it a living creature? Some kind of intelligent life form, the likes of which we've never seen before?"

"Yeah dude, I, like, totally just said that."

"Okay, just making sure." I could really use an interpreter right about now.

"Ensign Rondo," Klaa'ck interrupted. "Do you think this Space Cloud is any danger to us?"

"Aww, dude, I've got, like, no idea. I mean, like, we can't even tell what it is."

"Yes," Clerk spoke up. "but have there been any reports of its activity or presence anywhere?"

"I can answer that, Captain," Whatsisname said. "There are a few messages coming across the wire about cancelled yard sales, and--"

"Right, I knew that already. I mean is it attacking anything, or communicating, or showing signs of intelligence?"

"Well, yeah," Rondo interrupted. "That's, like, what these things do, man."

"So it's attacking?"

"No, I meant, like, the other two."

"Well, Ensign, you gotta, like, be specific, dude." Oh no. Now I'm talking like him.

"Captain!" Ensign Tolstoy shouted from the navigator's console. "The cloud has seen us! It's turning around and heading this way."

"Red Al-- oh, wait, we're already there." Clerk turned to the communications station. "Um... Kato, open a channel to... uh... to the cloud."

"Captain, I don't think Space Clouds are equipped with communications arrays."

"Cloud is 10,000 miles away!" Tolstoy updated.

"Aren't we using kilometers by now?" the Captain replied, confused.

"Sorry, sir! Cloud is now... 11,650.87 kilometers away!"

"Ensign," Whatsisname said. "10,000 miles is 16093.44 ki--"

"I'm aware of that, sir."

"Then why did you say--"

"Because it's moving towards us. 9813.14 kilometers now."

By now, the Captain had moved over to Tolstoy's station. "Um... isn't it 'moving toward us'?"

"The two are interchangeable, sir. Really, it's local dialect that usually dictates which is appropriate."

"Are you going to correct all of us, Ensign? Since when were you so educated?"

"Since I graduated from the Academy with a 3.93 GPA... sir."

Yeah, but is that a metric GPA?

"Anyways... it's 2194.77 kilometers away now, and it appears to be slowing down."

"Thank you, Ensign."

"Sorry about the backtalk, sir."

"No worries. All you did was up my percentage. Now 99.99767% of my crew have backtalked me. It's no big deal."

"Who's the lone holdout?" asked Whatsisname.

"Jed Jenkins," Clerk replied. "But he wouldn't disrespect me to save his life."

"Cloud is now stopped, sir," said Tolstoy. "Range... 1750 kilometers."

"Okay, so we're face-to-face with a Space Cloud," said Clerk, never afraid to overstate the obvious in the heat of the moment. And I have no idea what to do.

"Captain!" came a voice (and a honk) from the Science Station.

"Yes, Ensign Kazoo?"

"Sensors indicate the cloud is sending signals our way!" Honk.

"What kind of signals?"

Kazoo perused his screen again. "Sir, it's an ancient Earth code... Morse, I think it's called!" Honk.

Ancient? I used it last week to keep Klaa'ck from knowing what I was trying to tell Flüshaht during last night's Monopoly® game.

"You mean the secret dealmaking you were doing?" Klaa'ck said unexpectedly.

"What is--wait a minute!" Clerk said, turning to his First Officer. "You can read my thoughts?"

"Yes, sir. I do have some limited telepathic abilities."

"Since when?"

"Since always, sir. Comes standard with being part-Vulcan."

Still in shock from the discovery, Clerk turned back to Kazoo. "So what is the cloud saying?"

"It's trying to offer us a good deal on a used antimatter inverter." Honk.

"Tell it we've already got like a dozen or so of those on board. Thank it, and ask it if it would get out of our way."

"Yes sir." Tap tap tap tap honk tap tap tap tap tap honk tap tap tap...

It was at this point that Captain Clerk discovered that time noticeably slows down when you're standing there listening to a clown do Morse code.

"Okay, Captain. Message sent!" Honk.

"Thank y--" Clerk couldn't even get the sentence out before the reply came back. Ensign Kazoo fed the response through the computer.

"Sir, it's pretty insistent that this is a deal we can't pass up. And it's apparently also ready to slash prices on some phaser rifles as well." Honk.

Is it even legal to sell those?

"Captain," said Whatsisname. "I don't think we're going to get anywhere with this thing. I've dealt with this kind of cloud before."

"And you didn't say anything before?"

"Well, it's unpredictable with these clouds. When you see one, you never can tell if it's going to attack you, offer you friendship, or attempt to sell you questionable merchandise. It's a crap shoot, really."

"What would you suggest we do, Lieutenant?"

"Morse code isn't going to do us any good. We need a form of communication that's more... persuasive."

Clerk and Whatsisname slowly turned their heads toward the half-Vulcan in the room.

"Captain, if you think I'm going to mind-melt with that thing to make it go away, you're off your rocker." said Klaa'ck.

"Well, Off-My-Rocker just so happens to be my middle name. Do it."

"No, according to Fleet records, your middle name is E--"

"Hey!" Clerk interrupted. "You've already used up your backtalk quota for the day, Mister! Now get to melting! That's an order!"

Resigning himself to his fate, Klaa'ck rolled his eyes and sighed. "What should I tell it?"

"Tell it it's under arrest for selling illegal merchandise, and to wait over at Sigma III for the authorities to arrive."

"Yes sir," Klaa'ck said, stretching out his hand dramatically, and beginning to concentrate.

Clerk finally sat down in his Big Comfy Chair and breathed a sigh of relief.

"Stand down from Red Alert," he said. "Lt. Kato, notify the Fleet that we've got another unlicensed arms dealer on our hands."

"Yes sir."