About the Author
Leah Rewolinski is the author of Star Wreck: The Generation Gap.
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Star Wreck 6: Geek Space Nine
By Leah Rewolinski, Harry Trumbore
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1994 Leah Rewolinski
All rights reserved.
Space, the Finite Frontier
It wasn't one of Commander Bungeeman Crisco's better mornings.
He was startled out of a sound sleep at 0600 hours by a blast shaking his space station, Geek Space Nine. Crisco donned his Starfreak uniform and stumbled sleepily down the Promenade, a two-story mall that had been enclosed to protect shoppers from snow, wind, rain, and the vacuum of space.
Halfway down the Promenade, he found the blast site. Acrid smoke lingered over the heads of curious onlookers. A gaping hole was all that remained of what had been a lizard-skin-lingerie boutique during the days of Carcinogen occupation.
Crisco zigzagged through the shop, sidestepping twisted pieces of metal, shards of glass, and remnants of peekaboo nighties. Finally he stood beside Smiles O'Brine, his fix-it chief, who was examining the rubble for clues.
"Definitely a Bridgeoran bomb," O'Brine concluded. "Standard terrorist issue. You want me to file a report, Commander?"
"That won't be necessary, Chief," said Crisco. "Perhaps I'll have a word with Major Vera about this later." O'Brine nodded, politely allowing Crisco to maintain the fiction that this time he might actually discipline his second-in-command, Major Vera Obese.
Major Vera was a former Bridgeoran terrorist who now served as liaison between the federation — which maintained Crisco's space station — and her nearby home world, Badger. Crisco wished she'd be more fastidious about choosing a place to practice her bombing skills.
Without proof that this was Vera's handiwork, Crisco didn't dare risk her wrath by questioning her, and issuing a reprimand was out of the question. Bridgeorans were still hyper-touchy from the days of occupation by the Carcinogens. And even though they were free of Carcinogen oppression, their society still rewarded defiance and violence. For every bomb that Major Vera set off in a populated area, she earned another credit toward her B.A. — Bridgeoran Attitude.
As Crisco left the storefront and continued down the Promenade, he saw Chief Medical Officer Dr. Julio Brassiere walking a few steps ahead of him. Crisco noticed something different about Brassiere and felt a stab of displeasure. There's another example of the lack of respect Starfreak commands on this station, Crisco thought. Someone had taped a "Kick Me" note to Dr. Brassiere's back.
Crisco followed Brassiere into Quirk's, a Ferengi-owned bar. For weeks, Crisco had been looking forward to trying the champagne brunch served at Quirk's on Ferengi holidays, and today happened to be Earbor Day.
Normally Crisco tried to set a good example by avoiding Quirk's bar, a drinking and gambling establishment which also offered the delights of a virtual-reality brothel known as the Hollowsweets. However, at this hour the place was so quiet that few citizens would notice Crisco's presence.
Crisco stepped up to the buffet table, but before he could take a plate, Dr. Brassiere stopped him. "I'm sorry, Commahnder," Brassiere said in his tea-and-crumpets accent, "but I'm afraid you'll have to breakfast somewhere else." Brassiere taped a sign atop the steam tray of scrambled whippoorwill eggs. It read "Closed by Order of Starfreak Board of Health."
In a flash, Quirk appeared at their side. "What's this?" he demanded, his oversized Ferengi ears twitching as he sensed a threat to his income.
"Your buffet may present a hazard to public health, Quirk," Dr. Brassiere said. "I'm shutting it down as a precaution until Security Chief Dodo is found. You know he hasn't been seen since the last time he went into his gelatinous resting state, don't you?"
Crisco broke in, "What does that have to do with shutting down Quirk's buffet?"
Brassiere explained, "There's a rumor going around that somehow Dodo has gotten mixed up in the oatmeal."
"Lies, vicious lies," Quirk sneered. "I'll bet that new McDoogle's on the Promenade started this rumor just so they could sell more Egg McShakes. Business is slow enough in here without you scaring everybody off, Brassiere." Quirk turned to Crisco. "Commander, can't I set aside the oatmeal and keep the rest of the buffet open?"
Crisco surveyed the steam tables. "I suppose so," he replied, turning away from the food with a sigh; for some reason he'd lost his appetite for breakfast. He told Quirk, "Don't forget, we have a meeting this morning in about thirty minutes," and walked away.
"I'll be there," Quirk replied.
Crisco strolled over to the Sloperations Command Center. This was the nerve center of the space station, which on the whole had an overabundance of nerve. Now, if it only had a heart, Crisco thought, and a brain.
Major Vera stood in the center of the Center, facing the Main Viewscreen, which showed a starship captain seeking permission to dock at the station.
"What's the magic word?" Vera demanded.
The captain looked exasperated. "I don't know," she said. "I just want to take on food and medical supplies for my passengers. They're refugees from the meteor shower on Dilettante-4."
Vera slammed her hand on the countertop. "Ha!" she shouted. "You call that a hard-luck story? Let me tell you about the years of Carcinogen occupation of Badger...."
Crisco trudged up the no-frills metal steps to Level 1 1/2, schlepped through the door to his office, and sank into the chair behind his desk. A moment later, his personal Viewscreen beeped at him and displayed the words "Incoming message." He pressed the "answer" button, and Admiral Troy Gogetter appeared on the screen.
"Bungee, baby," said Admiral Gogetter. "What's shakin'?"
"Hello, Admiral," Crisco replied. Mindful that Gogetter was director of marketing for this sector and therefore held the fate of the entire station in his hands, Crisco could never bring himself to match the admiral's level of informality. "What can I do for you?"
"Hang on a sec," Gogetter replied. He began speaking into the phone receiver cradled between his shoulder and his left ear. "Marv, you gotta understand, you can't treat the talent that way," he said into the receiver. "Marv ... Marv ... listen to me ..."
As Gogetter held the phone away from his ear, Crisco could hear Marv's tirade crackling through the line. Gogetter shrugged and said in an aside, "He won't listen." Crisco attempted a sympathetic smile.
"Marv," Gogetter cut in, "can you hold on for just a second?" Gogetter stabbed the "hold" button on the base of the phone, then reached into a white paper bag on his desk and pulled out a jelly roll. He bit into it, bleated a loud "Mmrrrzzhh!" and clutched his mouth. Grabbing the wastebasket from the floor next to his desk, Gogetter spit the mouthful of jelly roll into it.
"Mandy!" he hollered. A secretary appeared at his side in an instant. "How many times do I have to tell you not to buy these sweet rolls with boysenberry filling?" Gogetter scolded. "Get me some spring water to rinse out with." Mandy disappeared. Gogetter turned back to his Viewscreen.
"Anyway, Bungeeman," he said, as if continuing a conversation, "how's our hot new thing?"
"Uh — I beg your pardon?" Crisco stumbled.
"The space station, baby, the space station," Gogetter said. From the top drawer of his desk, he pulled out a pair of scissors. "We're a little worried about your hot property, Bunge," said Gogetter. With one hand he held up a mirror; with the other, he snipped at his bangs with the shears. Hair fell onto his desktop.
"We've got a lot riding on your three-ringed circus floating out there next to the wormhole," Gogetter continued. "People are saying you're not living up to your billing, and alien traffic is way down. Way down," he repeated, sweeping the hair into a pile and wafting it toward the wastebasket.
Mandy appeared at his side and handed him a bottle of spring water. "Do you want me to empty that wastebasket for you, sir?" she asked. "It's getting awfully full."
"No," he said. "Nobody touches this wastebasket but me, understand?" He took a swallow from the water bottle, then faced his Viewscreen again. "So, Bungeeman, your station has gotta live up to the hype. Don't leave us standing here with our nacelles dragging around our ankles, you know what I mean?"
"Certainly, Admir —" Crisco began; but Gogetter had already signed off.
Crisco's pulse hammered in his ears, and he considered leaving the office for a while to let off steam. I could go to the gym for a bodybuilding workout on those Carcinogen torture racks O'Brine converted to weight-lifting machines, he thought. But then he remembered the early meeting he'd scheduled with Quirk; it was now just a few minutes away.
Crisco mused over the irony that Quirk, regarded as one of the station's most prominent citizens, was a kingpin in the Ferengi underworld. Not that anyone was intimidated by the Ferengi — a race that looked like a Stephen King version of Howdy Doody — but their fondness for petty crime made it hard to keep order on the space station.
A moment later, the doors from the Command Center whooshed open. Major Vera ushered Quirk into the office with Bridgeoran finesse, tossing him like a rag doll. Quirk sailed through the air, hit the far wall, and slid down to the floor.
"What a woman," Quirk marveled, shaking his head with a dazed look of admiration as Vera exited, briskly brushing her hands together over another job well done.
Quirk dragged himself over to a chair in front of Crisco's desk. "You wanted to see me about something, Commander?" he asked.
"It's this security report from Dodo," Crisco began, holding up a piece of paper. "He says you —"
"I didn't do it," Quirk protested.
"Quirk, at least wait until I read you the charges."
"Well, whatever happened, I have an alibi," Quirk maintained. "I was in a Hollowsweet at the time with some of my ... er, escorts. They'll testify for me."
"Will you let me finish?" Crisco said. He glanced at the paper. "Dodo says you've violated Ordinance 433.222b of the federation legal code by selling lewd earmuffs." Crisco set down the report and added, "Look, Quirk, I know ears are an erogenous zone for the Ferengi —"
"We prefer the term 'earogenous zone,'" Quirk interjected.
Crisco went on, "Whatever. I don't care what you people do in private, but you can't keep selling these earmuffs openly. It sets a bad example."
"But they were in a plain brown wrapper," Quirk countered. "It clearly stated 'for use as a marital aid only' and 'must be eighteen or over to purchase.' Besides, you let Major Vera wear that chain ornament on her ear all the time. Is she into bondage or what?"
"Don't be ridiculous. You know the Bridgeoran ear chain has religious significance," Crisco argued. "The custom has nothing to do with their recreational practices." Besides, I don't have the nerve to ask her not to wear it while she's on duty, he thought. She might slug me.
"How about if I take the earmuffs out of the vending machines and only sell them from behind the counter?" Quirk suggested.
"Restraint of trade is not taken lightly in my circle," Quirk added with a hint of menace. "Remember, I have friends in low places."
"Oh, all right." Crisco seemed weary of the argument. "You can sell them from behind the counter." Quirk grinned and walked out the door. "But take them off the mannequins on your balcony!" Crisco called after him.
No sooner had the doors shut behind Quirk than another call came in on the personal Viewscreen atop the desk. Crisco was startled to see the face of the caller. It was James T. Smirk, captain of the original USS Endocrine.
Oddly, Smirk wasn't a teen as he'd been when Crisco met him; now he looked older than Crisco. Something must have gone wrong with the Fountain of Youth water that was holding back the years for him and his crew, Crisco thought, recognizing Smirk's adult face from an old Starfreak photo he'd once seen.
"I told you never to call me here!" Crisco hissed at the Viewscreen. "What do you want?" Nervously he glanced at the door as if fearing that someone from the Sloperations Center would walk in on this conversation.
"It doesn't matter anymore, Bunge," replied Smirk, steadily gazing at him from the screen of the viewer. "The whole gig is up, anyway."
An icy chill zipped through Crisco's liver. "What do you mean?"
"Starfreak Command kicked my crew out of our Juven Isle Amusement Park and took over the Fountain of Youth for themselves," Smirk said. "We're back on our ship again."
Crisco gripped the edges of the Viewscreen in disbelief. Smirk seemed mildly amused at the effect his announcement had on Crisco. "Hadn't you noticed that we'd stopped sending you fountain water?" Smirk asked.
Numbly, Crisco shook his head. Lately he'd been so busy trying to keep order at his crumbling space station that he hadn't kept track of the profit from his illicit sales of fountain water.
Smirk continued, "Starfreak left my crew just enough water to gradually wean ourselves back to the age we were before. That wasn't such a big deal for me, you understand," he added, glancing at the mirror next to his desk as he ran a comb through his toupee, "but my senior officers are having a rough time on re-entry, so to speak. I'm the only one fit for Bridge duty. The rest of them are all in Sick Bay."
Crisco blurted out, "Does Starfreak know about the supply of Fountain of Youth water you'd been diverting to me?"
"No," Smirk replied. "I kept you out of it. You owe me one, pal."
"Thanks," Crisco sighed. As his momentary panic ebbed away, he noticed that Smirk's usually mellow expression had begun to look a little perturbed around the edges. Perhaps I'd better smooth things over, Crisco thought. "Gee, I'm sorry about all of this," he offered. "I know you and your crew thought you were pretty well set for life when you controlled the fountain."
"Yes, we did," Smirk said, his jaw thrust forward. "And I'd like to know how Starfreak found out they were getting only a fraction of the fountain's output through their transplanetary pipeline."
"Wha —?" The implication hit Crisco like a Kringle cream pie in the face. "Are you saying that I squealed?"
"You tell me," Smirk countered. "You and I were the only ones who knew what was going on. And I know I didn't tell them."
As indignation flooded Crisco, he felt sure of himself for the first time since Smirk had called. All right, he thought, if you want a fight, I'll give you one. I've had plenty of practice since taking over command of this place. All we ever do around here is fight.
"Listen, Jimbo," Crisco began, deliberately using a nickname he knew Smirk hated, "I couldn't have spilled the beans about our agreement because I've been too busy lately to bother with office politics. First, the admiral who oversees this sector is on my back because the traffic among our sleazeball tourists has been way down lately. Second, my Bridgeoran first officer and some of the other outstanding role models on this station instigate brawls nearly every day, causing no end of trouble for me and my security chief."
Crisco was building up quite a froth of righteous anger. It had become his chronic response to the goings-on at the station. With veins popping from his forehead, lips pursed, and a voice icy with disdain, he could have passed for a high school principal.
"And that's not all," Crisco went on. "I'm dealing with constant warfare between rival alien gangs and wondering if I should get my son Joke away from all this, maybe send him to a Catholic school on the other side of the wormhole. I haven't had time in the last six months even to think about the deal you and I made, much less to go squealing to Starfreak Command about it. Do I make myself clear?"
Maddeningly, Smirk refused to rise to the bait. "Gee, Bunge, it sounds like you don't like it there," he observed blandly. "I guess you won't mind, then, if Admiral Gogetter relieves you of command."
Again Crisco felt himself being tipped off-balance. "Why would Gogetter do that?" he countered.
"If he found out you'd been taking a cut from their Fountain of Youth water," Smirk said, "and realized you can't live up to your squeaky-clean billing anymore, he'd strip you of command faster than you could say 'parametric subspace flatulence sensor.'"
"You're not about to tell him about our deal," Crisco said, trying to keep his voice steady, "not while there's still the little matter of Captain Ricardo's crew being stuck in the nursing home." Crisco paused, letting the implication sink in: Gogetter's bosses in the High Command thought it was Smirk's crew in the nursing home, living out a mandatory retirement sentence. Crisco added, "I wouldn't want to have to set them straight, but if you push me —"
"That 'little matter' has taken care of itself," Smirk interrupted. "Ricardo's crew was released from the nursing home yesterday."
A strangled sound escaped Crisco's throat.
Smirk went on, "It seems as though nobody at Starfreak Command cares whether there was a mixup or not. They want both my crew and Ricardo's on duty, and they're all hot and bothered about getting us to start some urgent new mission.
Excerpted from Star Wreck 6: Geek Space Nine by Leah Rewolinski, Harry Trumbore. Copyright © 1994 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. Space, the Finite Frontier,
2. Send in the Clowns,
3. Doctors' Disorders,
4. Here Comes the Bribe,
5. Readin', Rattin' and 'Rithmetic,
6. Eggsistential Philosophy,
7. Monday, Monday,
8. Emotion in Motion,
9. The Play's the Thing,
St. Martin's Paperbacks Titles by Leah Rewolinski,
About the Author,