The bridge of the spaceship Pyxis shook with alarming force, and because Rein Pronk was strapped into the padded captain’s chair, he shook with alarming force as well.
Rein Pronk was humanoid, early twenties if his existence were measured
in earth years, and devilishly handsome when his brow was not furrowed in concern over encounters with the potentially lethal hazards of space travel. At the moment, his brow was furrowed so deeply as to render him almost unrecognizable.
said the disembodied and slightly metallic voice of the onboard computer, “I must report that we have been rammed by what appears to be a pirate vessel.”
“Must you?” responded Pronk. He had not been feeling well before the tiny
blip had appeared on the sensor screens. Had felt incrementally worse as the blip had rapidly closed on the ship. And now he felt really quite awful at hearing this latest news. “Couldn’t you report that we had been rammed by something else?”
The computer paused a beat before responding. “Such as?”
“A basket full of puppies?”
The computer made a sound like it was clearing its throat. “Sir, the seriousness of our situation precludes me from humor.”
Alarm bells began clanging throughout the ship.
Pronk grimaced, clutched his stomach. “That’s probably not puppies either?”
“No sir,” confirmed the computer. “So as to put it out of your mind and allow you
to focus on more clear and present threats, let me add that there are no puppies within scanning range of our sensors, which is considerable.”
“Ah,” said Pronk, nodding, feeling like he might throw up. “How about cute, furry
The computer ignored this and continued. “The claxons indicate that the pirates are attempting to breach the hull in corridor three.”
“Pity. I’ve always liked the wallpaper in corridor three.”
“Sir, there is no wallpaper in corridor three,” said the computer with an exasperated sigh.
“Just trying to lighten the mood,” said Pronk, clenching as a spasm passed through his gut. “What defenses do we have at our
“Well,” said the computer, “we have Omni-burst torpedoes that could easily blow the pirate vessel to loose atoms. Except for the fact that it’s now attached to our vessel and so they would blow us to loose atoms
“Then we’ll wait on that,” said Pronk judiciously. “Any guns?”
“You left them behind, remember?” noted the computer. “You said that we’d have more room for cargo and that the
chances of us needing guns was one in a million. That might be an impressive ratio back on our home planet, but in the vastness of space, a million is just a little number that the really big numbers make fun of. And, let me remind you, you said that even
if we stopped occasionally to take in some of the spectacular local cosmic sights, our chances of being detected and boarded were maybe once in a blue moon.”
Pronk suffered another spasm and assessed his options. Stort and Twillnickel, the other
two crew were sicker than he and had earlier checked themselves in to the ship’s automated sick bay where—at last inspection—they seemed to be comatose. The three of them had collected massive quantities of cargo along the way but had no
weapons with which to defend it or themselves. As it turned out, a rather significant oversight. And then there was the ship’s Wish Upon a Star propulsion system, an absolute miracle of engineering that reduced interstellar distances to virtually zero
and which, in the wrong hands, tentacles, or tactile psychokinetic digital manipulations, could place the entire galaxy in danger.
Rein Pronk had invented the Wish Upon a Star propulsion system.
And he had no intention of letting it fall into
the wrong hands, tentacles, or tactile psychokinetic digital manipulations. Pronk gazed out the large front viewing port at the beautiful twin blue moons of Azulus VII and knew what he had to do.
Covered now in cold sweat, he rotated himself with some
difficulty until he could see the red button on the blinking console in front of him. At least he thought it was blinking, though it occurred to him that his vision might have been affected by the disease. A paper note had been taped beneath the button. On
it, bold, red letters warned, DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON!! Below this note, another note had been added: EVER!!!!
Any moment, the ship’s automated system would kick in again and send them hurtling across the galaxy. Now was the time.
said the ship’s computer, “you’re not thinking of pushing the red button, are you?”
“What?” asked Pronk. “The red button? Are you kidding? No one in their right mind would push the red button. Not in a million
The computer seemed to exhale a metallic sigh. Then, remembering its earlier comments regarding a million and its insignificance with respect to the vastness of space, it emitted an involuntary electronic noise that might almost have been
mistaken for a gasp had it not been a computer.
Pronk pushed the red button.