Episode 18: 28 Stardates Later

Like any good bureaucracy, the Fleet operates through an elaborate latticework made from the strongest material in the known universe: Red Tape. Ergo, when you are told you will have your mission “tomorrow”, what that means is “we have talked to our local Red Tape representative, and given the trip your orders have had to take through the complex network of People in Charge, tomorrow is our best guess as to your orders’ Estimated Time of Arrival”.

Which meant, of course, that weeks would pass by before the Secondprize had its new mission.

Things went rather well in the interim. Certainly, nobody minded that at all. Craziness generally stays at a particular base level on the Secondprize at all times, so when a nice long break like this occurs, everybody takes full advantage of it. The swimming pools are booked solid during times like these.

Captain Clerk kept a watchful eye over the situation, monitoring the usual Ships Operations stuff: computer upgrades, virus scans, furniture replacements, and so forth. He had begun taking his blood pressure medication again, so he managed to maintain his cool in just about all situations. The only real exception had to do with getting his new Bridge Chair. It took 7 tries to get the right one, and by that point, the cool he had been maintaining was expended for that day.

Having such a break also helped with acclimation (or re-acclimation, as it were) of the Department Heads. Returning vacationers notwithstanding, there was certainly no shortage of breaking in that had to occur. Dr. Flüshaht, try as he might, still hasn’t really been able to handle having a hologram as an assistant doctor. Hope springing eternally, Clerk has continued to insist that Flüshaht refrain from hitting the Delete key. So far, they’ve only had to re-install the Downloadable Doctor twice.

Klaa’ck and Cecil have been different stories altogether.

Since Cecil’s first major assignment was essentially being a living, breathing (though very well shielded) plumber’s snake, going about the daily business of running a starship’s engines was a downright cakewalk. Now that his Chief Assistant has learned his peculiar English dialect, everything has been running smoothly ever since.

Klaa’ck had a more difficult time adjusting to life on the Secondprize. Since his primary starship experience had been gained on science vessels, diplomatic missions, and other situations where rules were generally followed, he didn’t really know how to function on a ship whose Operations Manual mainly consisted of the words Don’t Kill Anybody. While the First Officer has not yet racked up a body count, he has set the record for the most crewmembers sent to Sick Bay in a 2-week period.

The “X Days Since Last Workplace Injury” sign has since been permanently retired.

Clerk’s main concern, however, has been dealing with Deck X.  The cleaning and refurbishing took quite a while, but what has taken even longer is getting anybody to move in down there. Despite how well-designed and well-furnished the area is (even before the Port Incident occurred), its location is not exactly prime real estate.

Additionally, once its history had become common knowledge (primarily through Jed Jenkins’ penchant for being willing tell anybody anything, with or without the drop of a hat), even committed tenants started backing out. It also didn’t help that they still, to this stardate, have not yet been able to completely get the smell out, despite having the best industrial cleaners around. Thus, even with the higher rates on the new upper decks, almost nobody has rented out spaces on Deck X. As a result,  its primarily function has been relegated to that of being the Fleet’s most expensively decorated storage area.


After about a month’s stay at Deep Dish $9, the crew of the Secondprize finally got its new mission. Clerk, having been summoned to the Bridge, barely managed to peel himself away from the Extreme Starship Makeover marathon his eyes had been glued to since Monday. When he arrived at the Bridge, Admiral Placãrd was already on screen.

“Good to see you again, Captain,” the Admiral genteelly began the conversation.

“Good to see you too, Admiral. How’s the wife and kids?”

“Don’t start with me today, Clerk. I’m not in a good mood.”

“Sorry, sir. So… I take it we finally have our new assignment?”

“Indeed. We have what I think will be a good one for your new crewmembers to test their mettle on.”

Captain Clerk began to get nervous. This kind of description usually meant either a boring diplomatic mission, or cinematic-level combat against a supervillain. Clerk actually hoped for the former, given the fact that the bulk of the ship had just been remodeled.

“We have a situation on Alpha Beta II,” the Admiral continued. “A space merchant has been harassing the locals there, breaking just about every protocol we have in our databanks. We also suspect he’s operating without a license and all that.”

I’ve got a bad feeling about this. “Has he been torturing them with his singing as well?”

Taken aback, Placãrd briefly reviewed the assignment’s description again. “Hmm… yes, there do seem to be a few reports along those lines.”

“I know who we’re dealing with, sir,” Clerk said with a little resignation. “I’ve dealt with him before.”