In which the practical jokes get personal.
Captains Log, Intergalactic Date 67918.7
The Impulsive is en route to the Pack Nebula, home of over a dozen Wolfe-Rayet stars, to join our sister-ship, the science vessel, HMB Inconceivable, in conducting an experiment in stellar manipulation. Our primary job is to lend a hand – and maybe a tractor beam – if the Inconceivable gets into trouble. The Logics ship, Rational Plausibility, is joining us to observe.
Our Chief Engineer, Commander Angus Deary, is already with the Inconceivable to assist in some of the preparations. He’s an engineer, not a scientist, of course, but it turns out the designer of the hardware, Commander Grant Jardin, was a long-time lab partner of his at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. They reunited during the upgrades to the ships, and he was invited to advise on a particular problem that had been baffling their scientific crew. When I asked him if he was able to resolve the issue, he laughed and said it was a “no-brainer.” I feel like there’s a joke in there, but he’s not been willing to share just yet.
Speaking of jokes, our practical joker continues to elude my Security department’s investigations. It has become something of a game for them, but others of the crew are getting less amused.
One of the bullpen crew shrieked when Loreli stepped onto the bridge.
The ship’s sexy stood at the lazivator, her usual calm alluring demeanor slightly ruffled, and with good reason. Her normally fern-green skin was pastel pink.
“What happened?” Ensign Doall asked.
“It would seem our practical joker had reprogrammed my evening nitrate supplements.” Despite the calm in her voice, the narrow-eyed glare she gave to Lieutenant LaFuentes said how pissed she really was.
“You okay?” he asked with uncharacteristic gentleness.
She swept past him and took her place at her station beside Doall. “Dr. Pasteur and Chief Botanist Chen say there’s no harm. The process is similar to changing the color of orchids. It’s not permanent.”
Doall nodded. “Like changing your hair color – Captain on the Bridge!”
Half a heartbeat later, the lazivator doors finished opening, and Captain Tiberius stepped out, accompanied by his First Officer, Commander Smythe. Both stopped abruptly at the pink vision standing at the Xenology console.
The captain cleared his throat. “I got the report from Sickbay, Loreli. Are you feeling all right?”
She gave him a warmer smile than she had to Enigo. “Quite fine, Captain, thank you. As Ellie was just saying, it’s not dissimilar to changing the color of one’s hair…I just wish it had been my decision.”
“Have you found our joker yet?” the captain asked LaFuentes.
“No, sir. We’re not finding any traces of tampering at all, and yet… This guy is good.”
“Well, playtime is over. Helm, how long until we’re at the Pack Nebula?” he asked as he and Smythe took their seats.
“Two more minutes at this speed, then five at sublight – fifteen, if you want to take the scenic route,” Lieutenant Tonio Cruz said from his station. On a spot above the controls, next to his St. Michael prayer card, he had a new photo of himself and his nona standing in front of a racing shuttle. He’d told everyone earlier about how he and his nona had taken her shuttle on a scenic trip around Italy. Apparently, he, too, was still in a vacation frame of mind.
“The straight route, please. We’re expected.” Jeb said, then he opened a shipwide channel from his seat.
“Attention, all hands. This is the Captain. In six minutes, we’ll be at the Pack Nebula to help the science vessel, the Inconceivable, conduct a highly dangerous experiment – one that, if anything goes wrong, could destroy both our ships and maybe this sector. It’s time to focus, which means the replicator shenanigans stop now.
“We’re coming into a complex and dangerous mission after a long break, but I expect everyone to operate at their top efficiency. You are the best crew in HuFleet, in no small part to your innovation and creativity. However, let’s apply that to the problems at hand. Captain out.”
“Slowing to sublight,” Cruz said, and the inertial dampers obligingly provided a physical cue of a slow jerk to signify the change from warp to impulse drive. Meanwhile, the screensaver changed from the streaks of light to a colorful nebula full of pulsating stars. Even though it was a computer simulation where colors were assigned to certain frequencies outside the human visible spectrum, it was nonetheless a beautiful sight. Everyone paused to enjoy the view.
Everyone except Loreli, that is. She was looking at the message on her console. “Eres muy bonita en rosa.” She glanced to the side to see Enigo give her a quick wink.