Episode 65: Pop-Ups Detected

Today was Captain Clerk’s first day on the New Bridge, and he was still taking it all in. He slowly walked around the perimeter, arms behind his back, admiring all the shiny new equipment, and unintentionally making all the ensigns nervous in the process.

At least they refitted the entire ship this time, instead of just rearranging the offices and installing fog lights like they did last time. Definitely gonna have to get Jenkins to come up here and repaint the Bridge, though. This all-white-and-transparent look just seems a tad… dull. They should totally go for this look in Sick Bay, though. Sigh. They never consult me on these things.

When he got to the Navigation station, Clerk noted Lt. Eric’s apparent confusion and frustration over the new control panel’s layout (and all the crumbs the navigator was dropping all over it).

“Something wrong, Lieutenant?” Clerk asked.

“Well, not really,” Lt. Eric replied. “It’s just kinda weird is all. I mean, I’ve gone over the training manual dozens of times, but I still can’t quite seem to get the hang of it. It’s cool that the new UI is simpler, but I think they may have simplified it a bit too much!”

Clerk chuckled a little. “Yeah… next thing you know, they’ll replace the whole thing with a joystick.”

As soon as that last word left the Captain’s lips, all of a sudden, a column rose out of the floor, in front of the Big Comfy Chair, just off to the right side. On top was a joystick.

Clerk’s eyes widened. Now wait just a minute… He walked over to this newfound controller and stared at it for a bit. To his surprise, nobody else on the bridge had even batted an eye. All were continuing to work away at their stations as if nothing had happened.

“Did nobody else just see this?” he asked in disbelief.

“See what, sir?” Info replied, turning from his station to face the Captain.

Clerk gestured toward the column with his hand. “This… this joystick that just popped up—”

As soon as he said the word again, another joystick on a column sprang up, this time on the left side.

Hmm… maybe I’d better not utter that word anymore.

“What do you mean, sir?” the android asked, puzzled. “The Manual Steering Columns?”

“Yeah. Weird, right? I just said the word, and they just came right up out of the floor. I tell ya, they’ve really added all kinds of weird stuff this time around.”

Info now looked even more confused. “Those aren’t new, sir.”

“They’re not?”

“No, they’ve always been there. Everybody knows about them.”

I guess everybody does now. “Umm… okay then. Well, you learn something new every day, I guess. Now how do I retract–”

Instantly, the joysticks went back to where they came from. Once again, there wasn’t a single reaction from anybody on the Bridge, except for Info, who simply turned back to his station without a word.

Note to self: never say anything out loud ever again.

Clerk let out a sigh and sat down in the Big Comfy Chair, wondering what else was lying underneath the floor — or behind the walls, for that matter — that for some reason he never got wind of. He didn’t have much time to think about that, however, because mere moments after he had gotten all good and comfortable, the familiar “incoming call” sound rang, prompting the captain to once again make a mental note to try and figure out how to change the Main Communications ringtone one of these days.

“Put it on screen,” he said with a little bit of reluctance, bracing himself for whatever potential unpleasantries were on the other end of the call. The way this day was going, he didn’t hold out much hope for anything else.

Sure enough, it was an unpleasantry. The perennially-scowled visage of Admiral Lenny “Caribou” Safeway appeared on the screen, somehow managing to look even more upset than usual. Clerk tensed up. Oh no. What have I done now? Does he know Kathy and I are dating again?

“I don’t like you, Clerk, so I’m going to make this quick,” Safeway began. “As I’m sure you know, your First Officer, Commander Odor, has put in a request for a transfer to starbase Deep Dish $9. Can’t say I blame him. Your mission is to go and drop him off at the station, then proceed to Vulcan to pick up Commander Klaa’ck, who has finished his Colander… Coldcut… his emotion training so he can return to active duty on the Secondprize, where he apparently thinks he belongs. So hop to it. Safeway out.”

In an instant, the Admiral was gone, and Clerk relaxed. Excited chatter began around the bridge. Clerk held up a hand to silence them.

“Okay, okay, we’re all excited to get Commander Klaa’ck back. So… uh… let’s get going.” He hesitated for just a second, once again feeling that mounting dread he felt every time he had to go back to his least favorite starbase. “Lt. Eric, set a course for Deep Dish $9.”