About the Author
Leah Rewolinski is the author of Star Wreck: The Generation Gap.
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Star Wreck III: Time Warped
By Leah Rewolinski, Harry Trumbore
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1992 Leah Rewolinski
All rights reserved.
Here We Go Again
"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." Capt. James T. Smirk paused to read the line he'd just written. Then he crossed it out and wrote: "The times were OK." There. That was much better.
Only 598 more pages and I'll be done with these memoirs, Smirk thought. He closed his eyes and pictured his book occupying the "#1 bestseller" slot on the bookstore display. He could even envision his picture on the cover, just beneath the title: So Many Classy Dames, So Little Time.
Inspired, Smirk flourished his feather pen and straightened the parchment. Then he paused; what should he say next?
He knew that the autobiography would recount his dashing conquests of exotic alien races, fearsome creatures, and gorgeous women. Yet something was nagging at him.
Suddenly he realized what it was. Their current situation would make a boring chapter.
The crews of Capt. Smirk and Capt. Jean-Lucy Ricardo were back together again on the USS Endocrine. After the crews defeated the Jargonites — destroying Smirk's ship in the process — Starfreak Command ordered them to share Ricardo's ship and cooperate on future missions.
But the brass back at headquarters have no idea what it's like out here in the field, Smirk thought. Sharing this ship is the pits. The members of Smirk's and Ricardo's crews bickered constantly, despite the captains' efforts to maintain peace. The infighting distracted everybody from their ongoing mission of finding novel predicaments to get into.
It was so much better when we didn't have to share a ship, Smirk thought. If only we could go back in time and get my ship before it was blown up in the Jargonite war. Hey, wait a minute. We CAN go back in time. Yeah! And my crew could bring our ship to the present, and we'd be free again.
There was just one hitch. Since Smirk's crew would need to build a time machine, Capt. Ricardo was bound to notice what they were up to. And Ricardo was notoriously reluctant to mess around with the space/time continuum.
He's so overprotective of history, Smirk thought. So what if we change a few minor events? It always worked out all right before.
Heck, it's worth a try. It shouldn't be that hard to persuade Ricardo to let us go. I'm sure he'd do anything to get us out of his hair, such as it is.
Smirk decided to propose the project immediately. However, he knew better than to call a formal meeting to discuss it. He'd never seen a starship where meetings got so out of hand as on the Endocrine. Capt. Ricardo was apt to invite everyone who wanted to get their two cents in, even people like Dr. Flusher who had absolutely nothing to contribute.
Instead, Smirk decided, he wouldn't even use the term "meeting." He'd just invite Ricardo to a friendly discussion. And he realized his right-hand man Mr. Smock should be there, too, just in case he needed some actual thought to bolster his argument.
Smirk reached for the intercom microphone, then remembered that they didn't have one. All he had to do was page Capt. Ricardo, and the computer would find him.
* * *
At that moment Ricardo was in the ship's lounge, Ten-Foreplay, mulling over a command decision: what to order for lunch.
Should he have Earl Grape tea and buttered crumpets, as he'd eaten for lunch every day since the Battle of Hastings? Or should he vary his routine and spread marmalade on the crumpets instead? A wave of anxiety washed over him, with vague yet terrifying fears over the consequences of switching to marmalade.
Then he shook his head and thought, Perhaps Counselor Troit is right. I AM becoming rather compulsive.
"You subconsciously resent having to share command of your ship," Troit had advised him, "so you seek a sense of control over your life by performing these compulsive behaviors."
At the time, Capt. Ricardo had ignored her diagnosis. He regretted telling her that every night after his bedtime shower and skull-polishing, he went around the ship checking that all 1,476 stove burners were shut off, 589 toasters were unplugged and 1,225 sets of drapes were closed. "You can't be too careful," Ricardo had told Troit.
Troit had also observed that his command style was beginning to fossilize. She'd pointed out, "Do you realize that yesterday you said 'Make it so' 53 times?" She'd given him some worry beads to play with, which helped for a while.
But now, Ricardo thought, compulsion is rearing its ugly head once again. No, wait, that's just my reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Well, I'll show her. I'll do something wild and radical to break with the past.
The waitress arrived at his table and began a singsong recital of the day's special: "Today's featured item is broiled fillet of sole with potatoes au gratin and fresh broccoli ... but — no, don't tell me, let me guess — you're going to have Earl Grape tea and buttered crumpets."
Capt. Ricardo flashed what he hoped was a devil-may-care grin and responded, "No. I've decided to live dangerously. Make it sole."
While waiting for his order, Capt. Ricardo ventured even further on the wild side by sampling the cellophane-wrapped sesame crackers in the breadbasket. As usual, he started counting so he could chew the mouthful exactly 23 times before swallowing, but then the intercom distracted him.
"Jean-Lucy." It was Capt. Smirk's voice. "I'd like to discuss something with you. Let's get together in your Ready Room at 2560 hours, okay?"
Ricardo started to object — this get-together sounded like it had formal meeting potential — but the cracker crumbs caught in his throat. He coughed and wheezed. Smirk took this for a "Yes" and signed off the intercom.
Ricardo continued to hack as the dusty cracker crumbs lodged in his windpipe. His face turned scarlet; diners at nearby tables looked on with increasing concern. One of them jumped up and encircled Ricardo's chest to perform the Heimlich maneuver. He squeezed with terrific force — expelling the cracker, and Ricardo's false teeth as well.
* * *
Mr. Smock was bored. How bored was he? He was so bored that, just to have something to do, he was about to read a book he'd sworn he would never read ... the book he'd been avoiding since the day he first saw it in the Endocrine's library ... the book that now remained as the single volume in the entire library that he hadn't read:
14,000 Things to Be Sappy About.
He tried to psych himself up before opening the cover. Surely it couldn't be as bad as it sounded. Maybe a little bit of whimsy was just what he needed. Summoning up more courage, he flipped through the pages at random. Out of the corner of his eye he peeked at a few entries:
rubbery Jell-O salads with canned fruit in them
the giddy, wispy way you feel when the alarm goes off at 5 A.M. on a Monday
a strong enema on a wintry afternoon
the Partridge Family
"Aaaaaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!" Smock recoiled in horror and dropped the book as if it were a poisonous snake. The librarian gave him a dirty look. Smock recovered his composure long enough to return the book to the shelf, but he was still trembling as he left the library.
So much for that diversion. He didn't want to end up wearing the straitjacket that had been hanging in the back of his closet since the Jargonite mission.
Smock walked down the corridor, careful to remain on the Smirk-crew side. Like everything else on the ship, the corridor was divided in half. Capt. Smirk's crew was confined to one half, Capt. Ricardo's crew to the other.
It was a natural extension of Cmdr. Piker's original idea to divide the Bridge in half. Yet that was not logical, Smock reflected. Dividing the Bridge put steering control in the hands of our crew, although navigation is on Capt. Ricardo's side. And so are the Crewmover and Capt. Ricardo's Ready Room. Or, as Capt. Smirk privately referred to it, the captain's Romper Room.
"I can't fathom it, Smock," Smirk often said. "What do you make of a captain who retreats from his own Bridge so often? Is he antisocial, or what?" Smock, knowing a rhetorical question when he heard one, would simply shake his head to indicate that Ricardo's behavior puzzled him, too.
Awkward as this was, the ship remained divided in half, since the majority of the crew had voted in favor of the idea. It wasn't too bad in the laundromat, the mall, or even Ten-Foreplay, but things got a little strange in the showers, where the "cold" faucets were on Smirk's side and the "hot" on Ricardo's. Ricardo's crew frequently suffered third-degree burns, while Smirk's crew tended toward pneumonia.
As for Cmdr. Piker, who originated this brilliant scheme, Smock had a plan. For the past few months Smock had been secretly sending Piker's resume to dozens of starships throughout the galaxy, hoping that someone would hire him away from the Endocrine. The ploy had resulted in a surprising number of offers. But so far, to Smock's disappointment, Piker had turned them all down.
The intercom broke into Smock's train of thought. "Smirk here, Mr. Smock. Capt. Ricardo and I are getting together at 2560 hours in the Romper — er, Ready Room to discuss an idea of mine. Why don't you join us?"
"Certainly, Captain," Smock responded. Anything to break the monotony, he thought.
"Oh, and Smock," Smirk continued, "don't mention to Ricardo the reason we're meeting, all right?"
"I will not, Captain," said Smock, "especially since you have not told me what it is."
"Never mind," Smirk said. "I'll brief you on it before we go in. Just back me up, no matter what I say. Throw in a few facts and figures whenever there's a lull. Make it sound, you know, scientific."
* * *
Cmdr. Wilson Piker sat in his quarters, idly tugging at his beard, and finally admitted to himself that he was stumped.
Just as I expected, he thought. The situation is much worse than I expected.
For the past several hours he'd searched for a missing videotape. It was time to give up and admit that the darned thing was probably lost forever.
The video was a gift from Ensign Westerly Flusher, who had filmed a typical Endocrine workday as his 29th audition tape for Starfreak Academy Film School. To the crew's immense relief, the school finally accepted him. Westerly was now away at the Academy, majoring in cinematography and minoring in weeniehood.
Hmmmm. If I were a videotape, where would I be? Piker wondered. Probably not serving as First Officer of a starship.
Piker's train of thought jumped the track. Even being First Officer isn't going to help me this time, he fretted. Usually, all I have to do is yell at somebody, and the problem gets solved.
Why, just the day before they'd had some serious trouble with the water softener. Georgie LaForgery, trying to explain why the whirlpool baths were filling with crud, said Engineering would need at least four hours for repairs. "We haven't got four hours!" Piker had barked; and Georgie had fixed the softener in 45 minutes.
There was something magical about the way Piker asserted his authority. An impossible job became possible, solely because he demanded it. He was the only one on the ship with this talent, which was probably why Capt. Ricardo hadn't canned him long ago.
But I can't yell at somebody this time, because I'm the one who lost the video, Piker ruminated. Let's see ... where did I have it last?
He remembered that he was about to watch the tape earlier that day. He'd just turned on the VCR when Capt. Ricardo had called on the intercom, reminding him to reset the ship's clocks for Daylight Saving Time.
I took the videotape with me to the computer room, Piker thought, and put it on the counter next to my keychain. Then I reset all the clocks simultaneously with that new software, SpringAhead/FallBack. When I woke up on the floor, I picked up my keychain and left the computer room.
Piker went over the scenario in his mind several times. Something about it bothered him. After several more minutes of intensely arduous thought, he figured out what it was: Why did I wake up on the floor?
"Computer," Piker said, "when I used the SpringAhead/FallBack software this morning, were there any unusual effects?"
"Affirmative," said the computer's feminine voice.
"The software contained a bug which created a time rift lasting 1.53 seconds."
Uh-oh, Piker thought. "Describe the effects of the time rift," he ordered.
"Momentary unconsciousness for sixteen officers; three unexplained pregnancies; the passage of a T-120 VHS videocassette into the abyss; and a loss of $1,435 in accrued interest on the ship's credit union accounts."
Geez. "About that videocassette — exactly where is it now?"
"Working," said the computer as it searched its records. After a pause, the computer announced, "Gone."
* * *
Beep-beep boop-boop, the door chime sounded in Capt. Ricardo's Ready Room. He made a mental note to have the melody reprogrammed to something more dignified — "Hail to the Chief," perhaps.
"Come," Ricardo answered.
Capt. Smirk and Mr. Smock entered. Ricardo felt a twinge of surprise; Smirk hadn't said anything about having Smock join in this discussion. It was probably some kind of ploy to catch him off-guard, Ricardo decided, so he'd retaliate by pretending not to mind.
"Ah, gentlemen," said Ricardo, leading them toward the lounge chairs arranged around a kidney-shaped coffee table. "Make yourselves comfortable, won't you?" Ricardo settled into a chair, wincing a little as he inadvertently leaned against the arm of the chair with his Heimlich-bruised ribs.
After the other two sat down, Ricardo picked up the candy dish and held it out to them. "Marzipan?"
"Thank you." Capt. Smirk smiled and took a piece of the candy, which was molded in the shape of a Kringle torture rod.
"Mr. Smock?" offered Ricardo, tilting the dish toward him.
"No, thank you, Captain," responded Smock, folding his hands in his lap. "I do not eat sweets."
"Well, Capt. Smirk, what was it you wanted to see me about?" Capt. Ricardo said, attempting a smile which he hoped looked genuine; he'd been practicing all evening.
Smirk's first impulse was to propose his time travel idea right off the bat; but on the way over to the Ready Room Mr. Smock had advised him to open the discussion on neutral territory. So Smirk pretended this was just another problem-solving session on the captains' toughest problem: the bickering between their crews.
"Have you seen the warning letter from Starfreak's HMO?" Smirk asked. Ricardo nodded grimly. The letter stated that the Endocrine crew was way over the allowable number of claims for scalpel puncture wounds and I.V.-stand concussions. The injuries were occurring to patients who'd come to Sickbay for treatment and then got caught in the crossfire between Dr. McCaw and Dr. Beverage Flusher.
"What can we do about it?" Ricardo asked.
Smirk shrugged. "I can't tell Moans what to do. You know how bad his temper is. Any day now I expect to walk in there, find him kneeling over Flusher's body, and hear him say, 'She's dead, Jim.'"
Ricardo shuddered at the thought of Beverage being murdered. It was bad enough that he'd sent her husband Jock on that fatal Away Team mission years ago; now if Beverage also died under his command, it would look bloody awkward on his resume.
Smirk went on, "And did you know Wart broke Checkout's nose?"
"What?" Capt. Ricardo said. "When did that happen?"
"This afternoon. On the Bridge."
"No, I didn't know," said Ricardo. "I've been here in my Ready Room since lunchtime." Smirk gave Smock a look that shouted, See? What did I tell you?
Smirk told Ricardo, "Smock saw how it all started. Could you repeat your report, Smock?"
"Certainly, Captain," said Mr. Smock. "In apparent retaliation for Lt. Wart's bullying, Mr. Zulu and Mr. Checkout had been throwing small magnets at his woven metal sash. They were keeping score of who got the most magnets to stick. Mr. Zulu was ahead five to three when the Kringle officer realized what was happening and charged them both."
"Uhhhhh," Ricardo moaned. Then he thought of another management problem. "I just got Security's damage report on that food fight in Ten-Foreplay last night," he said. "It seems your communications officer Yoohoo performed her lounge act one time too many. Let's see, I have the report here somewhere." Ricardo went to his desk, rummaged through piles of paper until he found the report, and brought it back to their chairs.
"Yes, here it is," he said, scanning the report. "Under 'Cause,' it reads, 'Chief bartender Guano, worried that Yoohoo's screeching was scaring away customers, threw out the first tomato as Yoohoo reached the chorus of 'To Dream the Impossible Dream.'"
"That was some fight," Smirk observed. "My shoulder is really sore. Smock, next time remind me to throw something smaller than a watermelon. So, Jean-Lucy, what does Security say about the total damage?"
"The upholstery on six chairs was stained," Ricardo read. "Also, a window was broken and three crewmembers were sucked out, along with some extremely valuable china."
Excerpted from Star Wreck III: Time Warped 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. Here We Go Again,
2. A Ship Divided,
3. Déjà Boo-Boo,
4. Bored Silly,
5. Neuts to the Rescue,
6. The Days and Nights of Yasha Tar,
7. The City on the Edge of Foreclosure,
8. Rescue Redux,
9. Childhood's Dead End,
10. That Was Then ... This Is Nuts,
11. On with the Show,
St. Martin's Paperbacks Titles by Leah Rewolinski,
About the Author,