Episode 74: Drives Like Crazy

Emergency situations are one thing, but Movie Night is something else altogether, and there was no way the crew of the Secondprize was gonna miss out on anything. The crew assembled in the Recreation Deck, and Admiral Jimi Clerk arrived just as the cartoons ended. The room went dark, and the broadcast began.

The show started with a trio of Klingon ships intercepting a space cloud eerily similar to the one the Secondprize was en route to. The interior of the ships was familiar to most of the crew, but the beings inside…

Clerk leaned over to Klaa’ck. “Hey,” he said. “What’s the deal with those Klingons? Their foreheads are all weird.”

“It’s the latest fad in plastic surgery, Admiral,” Klaa’ck said. “I’m sure it’ll pass.”

The show went on for quite a while, but Clerk was annoyed that there was no background music, and little-to-no dialogue. Instead there was only commentary by a Fleet starbase near the Secondprize. But what really clued him in was when the crew of said starbase addressed him by name.

“Admiral Clerk, are you getting our feed? Your signal is breaking up.”

“Dave?” asked Clerk. “Dave, is that you?”

“Jimi!” said Dave, finally realizing who he was talking to. “What’s up, home slice? Rockin’ the whole admiral thing, I see. Nice.”

“So… this isn’t Movie Night?”

“Naw, dude! This is the feed from the cloud thing. We’re monitoring it and all that.”

“Oh okay,” said Clerk. “That’s pretty sweet.”

“Hey, when you’re done with this mission, do you wanna go grab a burger or something? We should totally catch up!”

“Definitely. I’ll call you when I get back to Fleet Headquarters.”

“Radical!” said Dave. “See you later!”


“Admiral on the Bridge!”

Clerk sighed hard. “What have I told you about that, Lt. Obvious? None of that ‘Captain on the Bridge’ type stuff. Seriously! It’s so annoying.”

Lt. Obvious was not phased. “But I didn’t say ‘Captain on the Bridge’.”

Clerk covered his face with his hands. Somebody please tell me this is a dream.

As the Admiral approached the Big Comfy Chair, Info stood up.

“Wow,” said Clerk. “This space cloud thing is trippy. Usually they aren’t like this.”

“Indeed,” said Info. “It reminds me of the time I tried Pumpkin Spice Coffee. I believe that’s what you humans would call a ‘psychedelic experience’.”

That’s not a half-bad description of it. Looks like something out of the Experimental section at FleetBuster Video.

Clerk’s stomach rumbled. “Commander, you keep watching the screen for a while. I’m going for a snack.”


Captain’s Blog, Stardate: Taco Tuesday. The trip to and inside this cloud thing has been mostly uneventful. I theorize that it’d probably be more fun if I were using some of those recreational psychoactive substances. Not that I have the requisite experience necessary to make such an assumption. As I was saying, it’s been real boring, despite the impressive visuals. Some people are taking advantage of the situation, however. Lt. Cmdr. Kato, for example, has been taking selfies in front of our large windows so she has a nice background. I’d hit Like if she’d stop doing the duckface thing.

“Admiral, there’s an object up ahead.” said Weasely Smasher, the suspiciously young new helmsman.

“Wanna blow it up?” Clerk asked without looking up from his newspaper.

Weasely shrugged. “I dunno. It looks like a platform with a building on it. Something tells me it might be important. We are, after all, at the dead center of the cloud.”

“You should have started with that then. Is it a returned satellite?”

“No… wait, I see it! On the side of that structure. Looks like whoever built this used spare parts from old satellites and other space junk. I guess it must have tricked our sensors.”

“Very well,” Clerk said. “Are there any life signs?”

“Yes, sir,” said Lt. Eric. “And there’s oxygen inside the building as well.”

Well, you know what that means…

Ten minutes later, Clerk walked into the Transporter Room, where Info and Dr. Katie Jetski were waiting for him.

“Where’s the missus?” asked Info. “Didn’t she want to be part of this mission?”

“She’s having a bad hair day,” Clerk said, rolling his eyes. “She doesn’t want to leave her room looking like that, so it’s just me.”

“Seems you don’t have a problem with not looking your best,” said Jetski.

This is my best. “Are we all ready?”

After the other two away team members answered in a completely non-comedic manner, Clerk stepped onto the transporter pad, hoping the transporter had been fixed.

As it turned out, the transporter was, in fact, fully operational, and all of the relevant molecules coalesced into their proper shapes. The room they were now in was large but empty, and off to one side was a wide stairwell.

“Okey dokey,” said Admiral Clerk. “Obvious Exit is… right here.”

The group made their way down, and the stairwell got narrower and darker. Finally, they reached the bottom, where there was a steel door with a bare lightbulb glowing above it.

Something looks familiar about this…

The door opened to reveal a small room, packed wall-to-wall with records, comic books, and the occasional action figure. In the middle of it all was Lionel Clerk, sitting on a bean bag chair.

“‘Sup, bro?”

Lionel? What in the universe are you doing here?”

“Don’t forget about me, my dear Jimbo!” said Percy Sludge, whom Clerk somehow hadn’t noticed.

“Great,” said Clerk. “Both of you knuckleheads are here. Sigh. We did this episode already! This entire mission has been nothing but reruns!”

“I love you too, Jimi,” said Lionel.

“Answer my question. What are you two doing here, in the middle of a space cloud that’s headed toward Earth?”

“Tech support said to move the computer closer to the modem, so that’s what I’m doing.”

Clerk set his arms akimbo. “You know good and well there’s no internet in this part of the galaxy!”

“That’s the point, Jimi,” Lionel said, sitting upright. “All I wanna do is sync my account with FleetBox. Period. I’m not trying to swindle anybody, I’m not trying to do anything villainous… I just wanna upload all these images of my comic books. That’s all. I’m just having trouble getting all this data synced. Honest.”

“And you want me to help you commit these acts of copyright infringement.”

“These are all public domain, you idiot! I’m helping the online community by completing their sets. These issues of Cape Cod and Periscope Down are older than the Fleet, and are as rare as Ferengi dental professionals. I’m doing a public service here. I’ve got over 150 issues in the queue right now.”

Oh, you’ve got issues, alright. “Fine. Let Info have a look at your computer. I’m sure he can help you out.”

“Part of your problem is your internet connection,” Info said approximately 0.17 seconds after looking at the laptop’s screen. “Weird. I wasn’t aware anybody still used dial-up.”

“It’s all you can get on Alpha Beta II,” Sludge chimed in.

“It’s definitely too much data due to the pictures,” Info continued. “Yeah, the cloud can’t handle a sync like this.”

“Looks like we brought a cloud of our own, amirite?” said Sludge. Everyone in the room immediately looked at him scornfully. “What?” he said with a shrug.

“What’s that?” Clerk said, looking over Info’s shoulder. He pointed at an unfamiliar icon in the lower right corner of the screen. “Click on that. It looks important.”

Info did, and a panel called Auto Data Translator popped up. “That seems to be the problem, sir,” Info said. “He’s been digitally scanning everything from Alpha Beta II to here. That would explain the cloud.”

Clerk turned to Lionel. “What’d you turn that on for? That’s what’s making your sync so slow.”

Lionel got up to take a look at the laptop’s screen. “I thought that was just for software updates.”

“Can you shut it off?” Dr. Jetski asked. “There’s always a way to do that, right?”

“I can try,” Info said, clicking on the bright red flashing CANCEL button. The button disappeared, and was replaced by an icon shaped like a person’s hand, drumming its fingers in an endless loop. “In the interim, I suggest getting these images off the computer manually. Lionel, do you have any external hard drives?”

“I used to have a couple of jump drives, but I lost them years ago.”

“I’ll handle this,” Clerk said, getting out his communicator. “Clerk to Chief O’Boy.”

“Yes, Admiral?”

“I need you to beam down some external hard drives, fast.”

“How many?”

Lionel looked at Clerk. “We’re gonna need a crazy number of hard drives, Jimi.”

“Let’s start with five 2-yottabyte drives and go from there,” the Admiral said. “We don’t know how hi-res these images are, but we don’t wanna get too crazy.”

“Don’t wanna get too crazy? This coming from the Captain of the—“

“Zip it,” Clerk said. “Or I’ll take a magnet to this thing.”

Moments later, a stack of hard drives appeared. Clerk took the top one and handed it to Info. “Alright, here you go,” he said.

Info plugged in the drive and began copying. A few minutes went by without anything happening. The android sighed. “It won’t copy, Admiral.”

Clerk’s brow furrowed. “Won’t copy? Why not?”

“It says the files are already in use.”

“That’s a lie!” Sludge exclaimed. “I closed all the other programs… except for a few vital ones.”

“Vital ones?” Clerk asked. “Like what?”

“You know… stuff like FleetFlix™… and, uh, things of that nature…”

“Sorry, Admiral,” Info said. “I’m afraid we’re gonna have to reboot this thing.”

“Reboot? How do we do that?”

“If memory serves, there’s an ancient technique called ‘Control-Alt-Delete’ that I think we can use.”

“Do it to it, then. There’s no time to lose.”

Everyone in the room waited with bated breath as Info pressed the three keys. The laptop shut down. Lionel was worried a little over whether it would restart, seeing as he hadn’t seen a computer in the “Off” state in years. Minutes went by as hundreds of lines of status indicators and other cryptic messages rapidly scrolled upward, viewable for only split seconds before vanishing off the screen. Finally, the computer settled on a screen with just a password box and an Login button.

“Ok then,” said Info. “What’s your password?”

Lionel blinked a couple of times. “What’s my what?

If androids could facepalm, now would be the time Info would’ve done it. “It’s a word or phrase you use to keep your computer secure. You have to type it in to access anything on here.”

Clerk’s communicator beeped. “Hold on guys, I need to take this call.” As Info and Lionel discussed the minutiae of the login process, the Admiral made his way to the other side of the room. “Clerk here,” he said as he pressed the Answer button.

It was Kathy Safeway-Clerk. “Hi honey!” She said enthusiastically. “How’s the mission going?”

“Well, it’s Lionel and Sludge—“

“That’s all I need to know. Anyway, I was just calling to let you know that the cloud is dissipating. Seems like whatever you’re doing is working!” She paused. “We’re not gonna have to give them a ride somewhere, are we?”

Clerk looked in Lionel’s general direction. “I’m not sure. He’ll probably ask if he can borrow our internet for a bit, so we might as well take him home while he’s doing that.”

“Fine,” Kathy said with a sigh. “Just tell him not to download anything big while the History of K-Pop livestream is on. Heads will roll if—“

“I know, I know. I gotta go, dear. I’ll tell you all about the mission when we get back.”

“OK. See you then.”


Two hours and 17 external hard drives later, the ordeal was over and the Secondprize was headed to Alpha Beta II, with Lionel and Sludge’s makeshift starship in tow. Against Safeway-Clerk’s protests, Clerk gave both scoundrels guest rooms aboard the ship.

“Whoa!” Lionel exclaimed. “You have minibars in your guest rooms now?”

“Yeah,” said Clerk. “We’ve done a lot of upgrades since you’ve been here last.”

“Sweet,” Lionel said as he cracked open a cold one and sat on the bed. “Do you think you could bend the rules a little and give me a tour?”

Clerk laughed. “I need a tour of the ship myself! I haven’t seen all the stuff they’ve been doing since I got promoted.”

“I was just going to ask you about that. I saw the Admiral rank insignia you’ve got on. And don’t think I didn’t notice the wedding ring either. Kathy?”

“Yeah, Kathy.”

“Good. It’s been fun hanging out with you for a bit. You haven’t been checking in on me like you said you would, you know.”

“Sorry about that,” Clerk said, scratching the back of his neck. “I’ll get better about that. Honest.”

“I’ll hold you to that, bro. I still have that auto-email system I created, so if you don’t stop by, I’ll start it back up, starting at 30-minute intervals.”

“Hopefully it won’t come to that. I finally achieved inbox zero last week, so I don’t want it ruined.” Clerk stood up. “Well, I gotta get back to work. Don’t get into any trouble, okay?”

“Okay. Oh, and thanks for letting me use your internet too.”

“No problem. See you later.”

“Later, Jimi.”

As the door closed behind Clerk, Lionel picked up the remote and started flipping channels. He had a couple of hours before the pay-per-view Klingon boxing event started, after all…