Jeb was not the only one to be awakened from a sound sleep. Light years away, Todd Ahndmore, chief janbot programmer for CleanSpace Inc., yawned and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes before turning on his monitor. He rubbed them again as the bridge of the Impulsive appeared on the screen, Ellie in the first officer’s seat, and some guy he didn’t recognize sitting next to her and grinning like a schoolkid.

“Hi, Hot Toddy!” the bridge crew chorused.

“Um, hi? Ellie, what’s going on?”

She sighed theatrically, “We’re investigating this ship and all the people are dead and I just really, really missed you, so Rick said I could call you and say, ‘Hi.’ I love you!”

“I love you more,” he replied automatically.

She responded, “I love you many stars,” and the crew chorused “awwww.” Even the commander in the captain’s chair looked more charmed than concerned. Was this some kind of prank? “Okay, seriously. What’s going on? Where’s the captain?”

The commander waved his hand vaguely. “He’s in his quarters and doesn’t want to be disturbed, and First Officer Phin is doing something in auxiliary control. But no worries. I’m in charge! I’ll show you. Let’s do a weapon’s drill.”

“Yes!” Lieutenant Sisco, who being in charge of computer security, hardly ever got to shoot things, cheered. “Can I shoot up Marvin?”

“No!” the commander waggled his finger at him. “No. You do not get dessert first. Find me some debris and let’s make it smaller.”

“Marvin?” Todd yelped. “Who’s Marvin?”

Ellie laughed, “The ship where everyone died, silly. That reminds me, I need to figure out some spacetime coordinates for Commander Phin. Do you know a language called Gallifreyan?”

Todd scanned the bridge. Sisco was punching buttons with two fingers and giggling. Smirnov was balancing between two consoles, his back on one, his feet on the other, frowning and half-dozing. He had his shirt off. In the back, two people were…kissing?

The commander started shouting out orders at random and people were calling out “Aye, aye!”

All of them looked like they were sweating.

“Ellie?” Todd said, “I think something is wrong.”

“What?” She glanced around in annoyance. “I can’t hear anything over these guys. Let’s go to the Captain’s Ready Room.”

The bullpen team made catcalls and whistles as she stood, crooked her finger at the screen, and sashayed off the bridge. He’d never seen her move like that. In other circumstances, he’d have enjoyed it.

The screen changed as Ellie flopped herself onto the captain’s couch. She kicked off her shoes and tucked her feet under her. She smiled at him, and there was so much love in her beautiful eyes, but they didn’t seem completely focused.

“Ellie, did the people on the Marvin have some kind of infection?” he asked.

She toyed with her hair. “Maybe? It’s space loonies, and no one knows what causes it. You should have seen how these people died. Some of them tried to jump across the warp core and a bunch crammed themselves into a lazivator—ooo! I have to log that. They broke the Union record!”

“Babe, how long does it take space loonies to spread?” As he asked, he searched for space loonies on his console. There wasn’t a lot of information, mostly stories of ships found with the crew dead after having engaged in silly or inappropriate behavior.

“I don’t know! That is a good point. I’m so glad Rickie let me call you. I’m going to work on that right now.”

“What’s Doc Sorcha say?”

“She hasn’t said anything. First, she got squashed by an anvil!” Ellie broke into giggles. “Boom-smack! Commander Deary was going to fix her in Sickbay, and that’s all I’ve heard since. She did say I was okay on the bridge. I mean, I think it was her. She did seem kind of odd.”

“Maybe you should check on her?”

She huffed theatrically and lolled her head up to the ceiling. “Why? Don’t you want to talk to me? I miss you so much.”

She pulled off her shirt and leaned toward the screen. “So much,” she repeated, her voice low and sultry.

He felt his pulse pounding. He cleared his throat. “I miss you, too, Ellie, but I’m worried. You’re not acting like your normal self.”

She reclined on the couch, striking a pose. She gave him a knowing smile. “You don’t like how I’m acting?”

He coughed. “I do. I mean, I would, except you’re lying on the captain’s couch…”

“I am?” She blinked and looked around. Then, her eyes widened, and she sat up. “I am. Omigosh! I am! Todd, I have space loonies! I should be in quarantine. Oh, no!”

She leaped from the couch. He couldn’t see what she was doing, but he heard the door open, then her squeal. When she flopped back onto the couch, she looked terrified. “Todd! They all have the Loonies. I infected the bridge! Todd, I don’t want to die. We have to get married first.”

She started to look around wildly. “I have to get to Sapphire. I have to get to you.”

“Honey! Breathe. I’m right here. We have to save the crew.”

“But I want to marry you!”

He thought fast, “Me, too, but you want all your friends there, right? So, we have to find a way to cure everyone.”

She paused, then smiled. “You’re right! Omigosh, I almost forgot about that. Toddy, I’m not focusing very well. I thought coming to the bridge would help, but I made it all worse!”

“It’s all right, my love. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere until we see this through. Don’t hang up on me, okay?”

He hoped she didn’t hear the fear in his voice, but something inside him said that if she cut the comms now, he’d never see her alive again.