About the Author
Leah Rewolinski is the author of Star Wreck: The Generation Gap.
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Star Wreck II: The Attack of the Jargonites
By Leah Rewolinski, Harry Trumbore
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1992 Leah Rewolinski
All rights reserved.
The Honeymoon Is Over
It was a dark and stormy night. As usual, the USS Endocrine was flying through the galaxy, cruisin' for a bruisin'.
Captain Jean-Lucy Ricardo sat in his quarters reading How to Win Friends and Influence People. He put the book down and sighed. His staff problems seemed too sticky for any mere self-help book.
After the triumph of their previous mission on Cellulite-I, there had been a brief period of peace between his crew and the crew of Captain James T. Smirk. A frightfully brief period. Then the exultation wore off, and reality set in. The crews still resented sharing the same ship. They refused to combine their areas of responsibility and were at each others' throats constantly. Cramped for space, they spent more time fighting over territory than working.
Capt. Ricardo set the book aside and stood up. I'll go mingle with the troops for awhile, he thought. Perhaps that will help ease the tension. Let's see — it's Saturday night, so they'll all be in the bar.
Capt. Ricardo boarded the Crewmover, the Endocrine's vertical/horizontal elevator with the best Muzak in the fleet.
"Destination, please," requested the Crewmover's automated voice.
"Ten-Foreplay," said the captain.
Actually, Capt. Ricardo was the only one who thought of Ten-Foreplay as a bar. "Social club" was more like it. The Endocrine was such a wholesome ship, what with families aboard and all, that Ten-Foreplay's house rules prohibited brawling, bar dice, and lewd and lascivious behavior. It was widely regarded as the dullest watering hole in Starfreak.
As Capt. Ricardo entered Ten-Foreplay, he saw his co-captain, James T. Smirk, sitting at a table with Counselor Deanna "Dee" Troit. The captains bared their teeth at each other in a social grin.
Ricardo envied him. Smirk and Deanna had become engaged just after the Endocrine's previous mission. It was obvious to Ricardo that Smirk was the happiest man in the galaxy now that he was about to be married.
* * *
How did I ever let myself get into this predicament? Capt. Smirk thought. Deanna was going on and on about silver patterns and bridal registries. Smirk felt the familiar tightness that grew in his chest whenever he contemplated their future together. His palms began to sweat. He kept nodding, hoping she'd think he was paying attention as he stared off into the distance, trying to keep his composure.
It wasn't as though he didn't love Deanna. He'd been sincere when he'd proposed to her the night the Endocrine crew overcame the Cellulites. The romantic gesture had somehow seemed to fit into the celebration.
Then the next morning when he awakened, it had hit him: committing himself to Deanna meant losing out on the Wonderful World of Classy Dames. No more seeking out the most beautiful human-looking female in every alien race. No more star-crossed romances, made all the more intense by the knowledge that they would inevitably end. No more playing the conquering lover. He would be hemmed in, tied down, domesticated.
Yet he couldn't bring himself to tell Deanna how he felt. She got so emotional at times. What would happen if he called off their engagement? It might break her heart. Worse yet, she might break his jaw. So he kept his misgivings to himself, and when they were together, it took all his energy to mask his feelings from her Betavoid telepathy.
Deanna was saying something. He'd better pay attention. "Jim? Jim, are you listening?"
"Of course, darling." He smiled at her and took a gulp of his vodka martini. She really was a beautiful woman, he reflected. And talented, too. Why, just last week she'd earned a promotion, which allowed her the privilege of wearing a dress on the Bridge.
"I was just wondering," she said, tossing her curls coyly, "when we're going to set the date."
"Date?" Smirk gave her a blank stare.
"Of our wedding day, sweetheart." She sipped her blackberry brandy. "Or are we going to continue this engagement indefinitely?"
"Oh, that date!" Smirk attempted a light laugh, which emerged too loudly as a sort of bleat. The odd noise prompted several people at nearby tables to turn and look curiously at him. "Well, ah, I hadn't really thought about it; I've been enjoying our endangerment so much."
Troit smiled tolerantly. "Don't you mean 'engagement'?"
Smirk forced the corners of his mouth ever higher. "Yes. That's what I meant to say. Engapement. Ummm, endrapement. Engaguh — guh ... Eng-g-g- ..."
Troit lovingly clasped his hand and loosened his grip on the vodka martini. "I think you've had enough for now, dear," she whispered.
* * *
Capt. Ricardo walked over to a table where three of his officers were sitting: his second in command, Commander Wilson Piker; his Kringle security officer, Wart; and chief engineer Georgie LaForgery.
"Mind if I join you?" the captain asked.
"Not at all," said Piker. "Pull up a chair. We're just about to order." He handed a menu to Capt. Ricardo.
Ten-Foreplay's food service was a money-making venture recently introduced by the chief bartender, Guano. She needed the money to get herself an eyebrow transplant.
An odd-looking creature approached their table. "Hi, I'm Dirk, and I'll be your alien tonight," he simpered. "Can I take your order?"
"I'm ready," Piker said. "How about you, Wart?" Oddly, this sounded like a taunt.
Capt. Ricardo suddenly regretted sitting with them. Too late, he recalled Piker's recent fascination with Kringle cuisine. Piker and Wart had an ongoing macho match to see who could eat — with gusto — the most revolting Kringle food.
Wart ordered first. "I'll take the stewed targgh intestines, some hard-boiled bztocckk eyeballs, and a mug of breshtltorg blood." His eyelids narrowed in satisfaction as he handed the menu to Dirk.
Piker drew a deep breath and smiled as he met his opponent's challenge. "I'll have deep fried roargazht tail," he told the waiter, "a side order of glrshhh tongue and —" he paused for effect "— a draft of morishkee urine."
"Sir?" Dirk the waiter turned to Capt. Ricardo.
"I'll just have tea, thank you." Ricardo managed a wan smile. "Earl Grape."
"And you, sir?" Dirk inquired of Georgie.
"I'm not drinking tonight, thanks. I'm, uh, the ship's designated driver," Georgie said.
"Ah, there's nothing like a meal of wild game," Piker exulted. "I remember when my dad taught me to cook. I was only 10 years old. We were living in Alaska, and my mother had just left us in that awful incident with the bear."
"She was attacked?" Georgie gasped.
"No, she ran off to live in a cave with him." Piker took a swallow of ice water. "Actually, the bear was a big improvement over my father." Piker pulled three packets of Nutrasweet out of the tabletop container and emptied them into the water, stirring with his finger. "Anyway, after that we had to do all the housework ourselves. That's when Dad taught me to cook." He drained the entire glass without taking a breath, set it down, and ran his hand across his mouth with relish. It was his warm-up for the lip-smacking that would follow shortly.
Capt. Ricardo wasn't really listening. He had started to reflect on how far his first officer had come lately.
When their mission with the Cellulites ended, Piker decided he needed an intellectual challenge. Crew members offered suggestions: take adult education classes in Starship Management at Starfreak Trade & Tech; learn a second language; study chess; take up woodworking. Piker politely thanked them and carefully considered each possibility. After weeks of thought, he announced his chosen project: He was going to grow a beard. Later he became even more ambitious, planning to enter a Luciano Pavarotti lookalike contest.
The waiter arrived with their orders. "Watch out," he said, placing Piker's food in front of him. "The plate is extremely hot." The radioactivity symbol stenciled on the plate's border emphasized his warning. The parsley glowed enticingly.
Piker grinned in triumph. His meal was much more disgusting than Wart's. He grabbed his fork and began shoveling in the food.
Not to be outdone, Wart picked up a bztocckk eyeball and used his salad fork to pluck out the pupil like a pimiento from an olive.
Capt. Ricardo turned an interesting shade of green as he set his teacup carefully back in its saucer. He noticed that Georgie had closed the slats of his visor.
* * *
At an adjacent table, a waitress brought a tray. "Here you go," she announced, setting a bowl in front of each customer. "Three yogurts ... "... a Scotch ..." she continued, placing the drink in front of Mr. Snot.
"... saki ..." which she gave to Zulu.
"... and a Shirley Temple," which went to Checkout.
Mr. Snot raised his glass in a toast. "Here's to good health," he proposed. Then he lifted a spoonful of yogurt in a second toast, adding, "and civilized eating." His last remark, directed loudly and pointedly toward the table next to them, drew a warning grumble from Wart.
Mr. Snot, Zulu and Checkout regarded their yogurt without enthusiasm. All of Smirk's crew had developed a high tolerance to the yogurt's anti-aging effects, so that they now resorted to eating it at every meal.
It hadn't helped; they had aged considerably since the Cellulite mission. Capt. Smirk desperately tried to counteract the trend. His motto became, "We're not getting older, we're getting funnier," and he constantly maneuvered them into cornball situations. The comic relief became so unremitting that finally they begged for some serious relief.
Then he led them on a camping trip to Jellystone Park, with an exhausting schedule of scaling rock walls and embarrassing themselves around the campfire. Again, they begged for a rest. Smirk was still going strong, demonstrating his vigor by climbing hills, climbing mountains, climbing sanitary landfills, climbing anything he could find that was higher than he was — but the others wanted to go back, so he relented.
Yoohoo probably could have benefitted the most from getting some exercise on the camping trip, but Capt. Smirk subtly discouraged her from coming along — "This is a male-bonding kind of thing," he told her — so instead she spent the week at a fat farm.
She didn't lose weight. However, she did pick up some freelance battle assignments from Starfreak Command. At each battle she was airlifted in to a high vantage point to perform a seductive dance, and the enemy was incapacitated with laughter.
* * *
Capt. Ricardo noticed Dr. Beverage Flusher and her son Westerly enter Ten-Foreplay. Glad for the excuse to escape the gross eat-off, Ricardo left the table and approached them.
My, how Westerly has grown, he thought. He's changed from a gangly, awkward adolescent to a gangly, awkward post-adolescent. It must have been quite a surprise for Beverage when she returned to our ship. "Dr. Flusher, may I have a word with you, please?" Capt. Ricardo inquired.
Westerly took advantage of the interruption to escape to the video gameroom. Dr. Flusher had been hanging around him like a mother hen ever since she'd gotten back on the ship. He had a lot on his mind, and she was only distracting him from doing some serious worrying.
His worrying spell had started several nights before when Westerly was beating Capt. Smirk at a game of chess.
Smirk had begun making conversation in an attempt to distract Westerly. He had mentioned that he'd once had a son. His son had died, Smirk said. In fact, today was the anniversary of his death. His remains were somewhere out there in the vastness of space. ... Westerly's gaze had followed Smirk's finger, pointing out the window at the inky blackness. A chill had run down Westerly's spine. He had had an inexplicable feeling of déjà vu.
When he had looked back at the chessboard again, everything seemed to have shifted, and he felt a little strange. After that, the game had turned to Smirk's advantage, and eventually Smirk won. Westerly, putting away the chess set, had been so upset he never even noticed that one of his knights was missing.
Later, moping around at his post, Westerly had realized why Smirk's anecdote had been so disturbing.
"That's it!" he'd blurted out.
"What, ensign?" Capt. Ricardo had growled, stepping over to Westerly's control console.
"Captain Smirk's son! Another child of an officer, dead! Counselor Troit had a son, but he's gone. And Dacron had a daughter, and she's gone, too. Every time an officer of this ship has a kid, they die!"
"Hmmm, yes," mused Capt. Ricardo. "I see what you mean. That's worked out rather nicely, hasn't it?" Westerly knew Capt. Ricardo didn't mean to be nasty; he just hated kids.
But still, thought Westerly, what kind of force seems to have it in for these officers' children? And where does that leave ME? He'd fretted over it ever since.
* * *
"Dr. Flusher ..." Capt. Ricardo began, leaning close to her as they sat at the bar, "have you —" he broke off, flustered, as Guano the bartender approached.
"I'll have a Manhattan," Dr. Flusher ordered.
"Any fries with that?" prompted Guano.
"No." Dr. Flusher smiled politely. "Just the drink."
"How about some of our cheesy potato skins? They're really good."
"No, thank you." Dr. Flusher's smile grew more strained.
"Chicken wings? Tapas? Sushi? Or — I've got it — a hunk of steak tenderloin would go real good with that Manhattan," urged Guano.
"Just ... the ... drink," Beverage hissed.
"O-kaaay," Guano conceded, muttering "cheapskate" under her breath as she left them.
Capt. Ricardo resumed their conversation in an urgent tone. "Have you gotten my latest dose of GrowBrain yet?"
"Captain." Beverage suppressed a giggle. "It's GrowGrain, not GrowBrain. It grows hair, not brain matter." She picked up the drink Guano set down in front of her.
"That's too bad, come to think of it," she continued, taking a sip. "I could make a fortune selling a brain enhancer." She glanced at Piker at the nearby table; he was doing his bear imitation again.
"All right — GrowGrain," Capt. Ricardo answered impatiently. "Can you get me more?"
"No." She set the drink down, suddenly stern. "I told you, Captain, we're discontinuing treatment. Not only did the GrowGrain fail to stimulate hair growth on your scalp, but there was that dangerous reaction in the Crewmover."
An asbestos allergy was a well-documented side effect among patients who'd had the GrowGrain tonic slathered over their heads. So Dr. Flusher hadn't been too surprised when the asbestos lining of the Crewmover made Capt. Ricardo's skull wrinkle like a prune. Luckily, the wrinkles disappeared after a week of bed rest.
"I can avoid the Crewmover," Capt. Ricardo pleaded. "I'll stay on the Bridge all the time. I'll sleep there. I can set up a cot in my ready room."
Dr. Flusher wrinkled her mouth skeptically. "And what happens in an emergency when you need to go somewhere else on the ship? Our vertical decks are five hundred thirty-eight stories high."
"I'll take the stairs."
* * *
Farther down the bar, Dr. McCaw scowled as he set down his glass of gin. The mere sight of Dr. Flusher irritated him.
He was still ticked off that Starfreak had transferred Dr. Cape Pragmatski and replaced her with Dr. Flusher. He and Pragmatski had been just about to open their I'm-A-Doctor chain of space medicine clinics. They'd planned to treat phaser burns, meteor concussions, and the UltraFax dislocations that occurred when a beam-down went awry and people came out with their body parts mixed up. But they had to abandon the franchise idea when Pragmatski left.
Starfreak's arbitrary decision infuriated Dr. McCaw because, as he complained to Capt. Smirk, "It goes against my mission as a doctor: to turn a profit." But there was nothing anybody could do about it. McCaw eked out some small satisfaction by playing practical jokes on Flusher whenever he got the chance.
He grinned. Wait till she found the radioactive life-forms he'd hidden in the pocket of her lab coat.
* * *
At the far end of the bar, Dacron gulped down a glass of crankcase fluid, ran his tongue around his mouth, and shook his head. No matter what they said about these state-of-the-art beverage simulators, the drinks just didn't taste like the real thing.
Dacron walked over to the men's restroom. He really didn't have to go — ever; this was just part of his ongoing crusade to master all human characteristics.
Unwittingly, Dacron walked into the ladies' room instead. Yoohoo stood in front of the mirror, her skirt lifted up to her waist as she adjusted her girdle. She screamed when she saw him. Dacron apologized profusely and backed out.
He felt himself blushing a brighter shade of pale. How could I have made that mistake? he wondered.
Entering the men's room, Dacron saw Mr. Smock standing in front of the sink, peeling off the pink adhesive tape he'd used to set his ears, then putting the finishing touches on his sideburns with Dippity-Do.
Meanwhile, Georgie sat in one of the toilet stalls, shivering. I hate the way these Starfreak jumpsuits force us to peel off half our clothes every time nature calls, he thought. When am I going to get a two-piece uniform like the senior officers have?
* * *
Capt. Ricardo and Capt. Smirk left Ten-Foreplay for the Bridge. They'd been informed that Starfreak Command was hailing them.
Excerpted from Star Wreck II: The Attack of the Jargonites by Leah Rewolinski, Harry Trumbore. Copyright © 1992 Leah Rewolinski. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. The Honeymoon Is Over,
2. Let's Pick Up the Pace,
3. On the Road Again,
4. A Shock for Smock,
5. Detour Through the Neutered Zone,
6. In the Bats' Way,
7. The Meeting of the Mindless,
8. Bring Him In to the Shop,
9. Drastic Solution,
10. Home Sweet Home,
St. Martin's Paperbacks Titles by Leah Rewolinski,
About the Author,