About the Author
Leah Rewolinski is the author of Star Wreck: The Generation Gap.
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Star Wreck IV: Live Long and Profit
By Leah Rewolinski, Harry Trumbore
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1993 Leah Rewolinski
All rights reserved.
The Return of the Pink Slip
"Darling, wake up. Jim, dear, it's morning." The voice of Counselor Deanna "Dee" Troit floated through Capt. James T. Smirk's sleeping quarters aboard his ship, the USS Endocrine.
Smirk turned over in bed, pulling the silk sheets over his head. Troit's voice continued to coax him gently. "The universe needs you. There are worlds to be explored and battles to be fought. Time to get up and buckle your swash."
Smirk rubbed his hands over his eyes. "Coming, darling," he mumbled. He sat up and pressed the "off" button of his alarm clock, silencing the recording of Troit's voice. Too bad it's just an electronic reconstruction, he thought. But someday soon, she'll be my bride, and it'll be her voice waking me up in person. I hope.
At the moment, however, Deanna wasn't even aboard his ship. She was in her usual spot on Capt. Jean-Lucy Ricardo's vessel — the other USS Endocrine — parked next to Smirk's ship in orbit of Starbase Flamingo.
Smirk was grateful that he no longer had to share a ship with Capt. Ricardo. Smirk and his crew now had the luxury of their own vessel, a working model of the Endocrine which their wrekkie fans had given them at the conclusion of their previous mission. Yet without Deanna around, Smirk had found that this was a hollow triumph.
Smirk swung his feet over the side of the waterbed, then groaned, remembering what was on today's agenda: they had to UltraFax over to Starbase Flamingo for a meeting with Ricardo's crew and Admiral Nonsequitur. Ecch, Smirk thought. I could be out in space obliterating an alien race or showing off my macho profile after a fistfight. Instead, we have to sit around jabbering at each other in a dull, dry, boring meeting.
* * *
As Capt. Jean-Lucy Ricardo awoke in his quarters aboard the neighboring ship, he lay in bed for a few extra moments, savoring the thought of what was in store for them today: a meeting.
There would be discussions ... voting ... consideration of every angle ... endless rehashes. It would be splendid.
Admiral Nonsequitur hadn't given them a detailed agenda as Ricardo had hoped. In fact, he'd refused to tell them what the meeting was about. But even without any anticipatory paperwork to savor, Ricardo was excited.
Ricardo headed to his bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet and scanned his large collection of skull waxes. Since today would be such a special day, he decided to use the Number 2 wax for the extra shine he'd need to stand out during the meeting.
* * *
Later that morning, after both crews had finished their water aerobics classes and eaten breakfast, they UltraFaxed over to Starbase Flamingo.
Capt. Smirk perked up when he caught sight of Deanna Troit in the hallway to the meeting room. He pushed his way toward her as the crowd of crewmembers funneled through the doorway. Deftly Smirk slipped his arm around Troit's shoulders. "Lovely morning, Counselor," he purred.
Troit glared at him. Smirk contorted his face into an expression of bruised bewilderment. "Was it something I said?" he pouted.
"Take your arm off me, Captain," Troit said evenly.
"Unnhh — shot down again. You've pierced me to the core." Smirk clutched his heart as if in pain. Then, lowering his voice so no one else would hear, he added, "I have been having some stabbing pains in my back lately, Deanna. You aren't still sticking pins into that voodoo doll with my picture on it, are you?"
Troit sighed. "No. I told you, I've gotten over that."
They halted in the doorway as the others filed past them into the meeting room. Smirk felt encouraged. At least Deanna hadn't yet taken his breath away with an elbow jab in the ribs like the last time he'd tried to put the moves on her. Eagerly, Smirk studied her face; it looked like she had more to say to him.
For once, he'd read her correctly. With an air of resignation, Troit said, "Captain, we need to talk."
After the last of the other crewmembers had shuffled into the meeting room, Troit and Smirk remained in the hallway. Troit shut the meeting room door so they could speak in private.
"Talk away, my sweet," Smirk crooned. "Your voice is music to my ears."
"Oh, really?" Her tone hovered around 0 degrees Centigrade. "Too bad that wasn't the case when we were engaged to be married. Or better yet, when you broke off our engagement."
"That was a dreadful mistake," Smirk admitted. "Simply a case of cold feet, my dear. But now I've seen the error of my ways. You're the only woman in the galaxy for me. I must have you."
Troit shook her head sadly. "I'm sorry, Jim, but I've thought about it a lot. It's not a simple matter of making up with each other. I've decided you're just not my type."
"Not your type?" Smirk echoed. He held out his palms beseechingly as if posing for her inspection. "What's not to like?"
Troit groped for words. "You're just too ... too ... I don't know ... arrogant, I guess. Like when you assume that just because you want me, I'm going to want you, too. Or like when you're conducting a mission — you never consult your crew like Captain Ricardo does. You just order everybody around because you think you know their jobs better than they do."
"Well, I do," Smirk retorted. "I'm always right, and in the end we always come out on top. What's wrong with that?"
Troit shrugged. "Sometimes it's more interesting to root for the underdog," she replied. "You can't tell someone's character until they've really been tested."
"But I am being tested, my darling," Smirk said. "I have to prove myself worthy of your love. I've dedicated my life to that goal. Isn't that proof enough of my character?"
"No. Don't you see?" She began to slip into her counselor mode, her voice dripping with Profound Understanding. "You only want me because you can't have me. There are millions of women out there in the galaxy, but you focus on me simply because I'm unattainable."
Smirk felt a twinge of alarm. This wasn't going the way he'd planned. It was time to slather on an extra-thick layer of that old James T. Smirk charm.
"Can you blame me?" he whispered, putting on his best hurt-puppy expression. "Everyone else pales beside you. I am nothing without you, Deanna. I've given up all my hobbies to focus on our courtship. I hardly even watch TV anymore."
Smirk leaned closer, half-closing his eyelids as if overcome with longing. "Please come back to me. Please. Pleeeeeease." He closed his eyes completely and puckered his lips, tilting his head toward hers.
She regarded him with pity. "Get a life," she replied.
She doesn't mean it, Smirk told himself. She's just struggling to overcome her common sense. Any second now, she'll succumb. He leaned forward with his eyes still closed and his lips still puckered, unaware that Troit had left the hallway and gone into the meeting room without him.
Stay puckered, Smirk told himself. Be ready. His lips were starting to ache. Gee, she's really taking a long time to come around.
"Captain?" This came in a deep baritone. Hmmmm, Smirk thought, either Deanna's voice has changed, or someone else is here in the hallway with us. With lips outstretched, Smirk raised his eyelids slowly.
His right-hand man, Mr. Smock, stood there. Deanna was nowhere in sight. Mr. Smock gave an embarrassed little cough and continued, "Sir, the admiral has requested that you join us so we can begin the meeting."
Smirk retracted his lips. "The meeting. Ah, yes, the meeting." He straightened his tunic and headed toward the entrance. "Well, I guess these lip-toning exercises can wait. Have you ever tried them, Smock? They're much more practical than water aerobics when it comes to real-life applications."
They entered the meeting room, and Smirk sat down in the chair Smock had saved for him. Unfortunately, Smirk observed, it was nowhere near Deanna Troit; she was sitting halfway across the semicircle of chairs that faced the podium.
Smirk caught Troit's eye and silently mouthed "I love you" with exaggerated expressiveness. She frowned at him, then tossed back her hair and stared at the front of the room.
Admiral Nonsequitur stood at the podium, glaring at Smirk. "Glad you could join us, Captain," he began sarcastically. "The early bird makes the worm turn, eh?" Smirk gave him a conciliatory smile.
"But enough of this endless discussion," Nonsequitur went on. "Let's get down to brass taxes. Here's the bottom line: Financially, Starfreak is barely squeaking by.
"Naturally, we've tried all the standard remedies," Non-sequitur said, "like increasing the salaries of our board of directors, awarding bonuses to the executive staff, and investing heavily in remote outposts that we'll never use."
Something rustled at Deanna's elbow. The person next to her was handing her a note. She unfolded it and read:
Deanna and Jim up in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G First comes love, then comes marriage. Let's find a wedding chapel in this parish.
Love, Jim P.S. I love you.
Troit crumpled the note, pointedly avoiding Smirk's eyes.
Admiral Nonsequitur continued, "None of these measures has helped. So we're going to resort to downsizing." A ripple of tension passed through the room. Suddenly everyone was listening intently. Even Capt. Smirk began paying attention.
"We can no longer afford to keep two identical ships in service, with duplicate staffs performing essentially the same functions," said Nonsequitur. "In fact, we can't even afford to keep you all on the payroll anymore. Therefore, we have decided ..."
Nonsequitur glanced around the room and, sensing their animosity over this announcement, slipped into the passive voice. "... Uh, therefore, it has been decided that there will be just one USS Endocrine, and just one person in each staff position. We have decided — er, the decision has been made to utilize some members from each captain's crew. The rest of you will be temporarily laid off — er, outplaced."
Capt. Ricardo leaped to his feet. "Admiral, I object!"
"The ship Starfreak will keep in service," Nonsequitur went on, ignoring Ricardo's protest, "will be the one which Captain Ricardo's crew currently occupies, and he will be its captain."
"Oh, then, never mind," Ricardo said, sitting down again.
Several people glanced in Smirk's direction, expecting him to object in turn, but he was too stunned to say anything at all. Besides, he knew from experience that it was futile to protest; he'd been stripped of his command once before, and there was nothing you could do about it once the big shots made up their minds.
"Here are the other staff assignments," Nonsequitur continued. "Chief Bartender Guano will be promoted to first officer."
"What?!" screamed Commander Wilson Piker. "That's my job!"
"Correction: it was your job," Nonsequitur told him.
"But I'm supposed to be Number 1," Piker said. "What number am I now? Am I on the staff at all?"
Nonsequitur squinted at the list. "Piker ... Piker ... yes, here's your name. I'll get to your assignment in a minute."
"But —" Piker began.
Nonsequitur interrupted. "There will be no haggling over your assignments," he said. "Our team in Human Resources spent a lot of time determining exactly the right person for each of these jobs. And Starfreak will monitor your ship to make sure you stay in these jobs.
"Now," he continued, snapping his papers against the podium in annoyance, "if you'll all refrain from further outbursts, I'll read the rest of this assignment list, and then we can go for a swim in the pool. All right, here they are. Dr. McCaw will serve as second officer, and former Chief Engineer Mr. Snot will be communications officer.
"Ship's counselor is now Mr. Wart," Nonsequitur read. "Chief medical officer — that's you, Mr. Piker. Chief engineer, Deanna Troit."
Deanna looked as though she might faint. Smirk's heart went out to her. Then his heart returned to its customary self-centered position as he pondered whether he himself would make the team. If Starfreak gave him a new post, at least he and Deanna would serve on the same ship, which would vastly improve his courting potential.
Smirk prayed silently, Please, let me have an assignment. Any assignment. Just let me make the cut.
"Let's see, there are three positions left here," said Non-sequitur. "Security chief ..."
Smirk, Smirk, Smirk, the captain thought, projecting his concentration toward the admiral.
"... Yoohoo," read Nonsequitur. "UltraFax chief ..."
Smirk, Smirk, Smirk ...
"... Checkout." Nonsequitur read the last line: "And chief bartender in the Ten-Foreplay lounge ..."
Smirk, Smirk, Smirk, please let it be me, Smirk, Smirk ...
"Mr. Smock. All right, people, you have your assignments. Now, everybody in the pool!" Nonsequitur slammed down his gavel to end the meeting. A buzz of discussion filled the room as everyone stood up and began reacting aloud to this stunning development.
Everyone, that is, except Capt. Smirk. He slumped in his chair, unable to believe his bad luck. Shot down twice in one morning, he thought, wincing.
On his way out, Capt. Ricardo gave Smirk a hearty pat on the shoulder. "Tough luck, old chap," Ricardo said, unable to completely suppress a note of gloating in his voice.
Ricardo's newly-chosen crewmembers left the room with him, eager to celebrate at the pool party. The remaining six crewmembers gathered morosely around Smirk, reflexively seeking his leadership even though he'd just lost his official standing in Starfreak.
"Captain," asked Dacron the android, "could you explain the meaning of our new status, 'laid off er outplaced'?" Smirk could only stare at him, too miserable to reply.
"Make that just plain 'laid off,' Dacron," said former Chief Engineer Georgie LaForgery. "No use sugar-coating it."
"Well, we still have a ship, anyway," pointed out Mr. Zulu. Georgie looked dubious, but Zulu shrugged and added in a hopeful tone, "Starfreak didn't say we couldn't keep on using the wrekkies' working model."
"Yeah, but without Starfreak's supplies and financial backing, we're not going to get very far," Georgie pointed out.
Dacron was still puzzled over what had happened. "Precisely what is our status relative to Captain Ricardo's crew now that we are 'laid off'?" he inquired.
"We don't have any status, Dacron," said Westerly Flusher. For a long time Westerly had been away, enrolled in Starfreak Academy Film School, but just the week before he'd quit school in a protest over artistic censorship. His innate sense of good timing had brought him back to the Endocrine just before this layoff. "Captain Ricardo's crew has the approval of Starfreak and access to all its resources," Westerly said, "meaning there's none left for us."
"We're out of it," agreed Westerly's mother, Dr. Beverage Flusher, who was formerly Capt. Ricardo's chief medical officer.
"I see," said Dacron. "In effect, they are the Haves, and we are the Have-Nots."
Dacron's observation seemed to strike a chord within Capt. Smirk. He began to emerge from his daze. "The Have-Nots," Smirk said quietly. "So it's come to this, eh? All these years of service, and I don't even get a gold watch. They just kick me out the door."
"Sir, don't you still own shares in Starfreak?" Zulu asked. "I thought you had a controlling interest, in fact."
"I sold them," Smirk said. "The market was bullish, trading was at an all-time high, and I needed some cash for a motorboat. So I sold all my Starfreak preferred shares and cashed in my IRA besides. Financially, I'm no better off than any of you right now. Here we are, the Have-Nots." He sat there looking dejected, apparently content simply to mope with his head in his hands.
The others, waiting for someone to take charge, began to get a little nervous. Finally, Ricardo's former UltraFax Chief, Smiles O'Brine, ventured, "Uh, Captain, shall I UltraFax us onboard your ship?" Smirk nodded, so O'Brine pulled out his remote-control unit and Faxed them up to the Bridge of the alternate Endocrine. At least there they could mope in familiar surroundings.CHAPTER 2
Get Your Butts in Gear
The next morning, the Haves took on their new roles aboard Capt. Ricardo's Endocrine.
First Officer Guano sat at the center of the Bridge in the chair formerly occupied by Cmdr. Piker. The day before, when Admiral Nonsequitur had given her the promotion, Guano had felt pure excitement. But now that she was actually assuming this position, she realized that her former job as chief bartender might not have completely prepared her to be second in command of a starship.
Guano wondered if Cmdr. Piker had left behind some sort of job manual. She opened the storage compartment of the chair and peered inside. But all she found were a few crumpled Big Mac wrappers and an illustrated children's book, A Beginner's Guide to Outer Space Terms.
At his Operations ("Oops") station in the forward section of the Bridge, Dr. McCaw scowled at the console panel. He realized he was supposed to run this thing, but none of the control buttons or readouts made any sense. A faint odor of crankcase oil lingered in the upholstery of the chair, reminding him that Dacron had occupied this station before the layoff.
Excerpted from Star Wreck IV: Live Long and Profit by Leah Rewolinski, Harry Trumbore. Copyright © 1993 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. The Return of the Pink Slip,
2. Get Your Butts in Gear,
3. Ten-Foreplaying Around,
4. The Look of Love,
5. Sorta Suitors,
6. Too True,
7. Truth's Consequences,
8. The Mushy Part,
9. Guano's Hat Trick,
St. Martin's Paperbacks Titles by Leah Rewolinski,
About the Author,