Space Quest:Exodus/Chapter 04

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Chapter 4: "Thank You for Pushing the Self-Destruct Button"

"When we last left our heroes, they had just prevented the Sarien pirate raiders from sabotaging the ship, only to get slapped in the face with an ultimatum and an autodestruct countdown. Time to panic.

"We find them just approaching the Bridge, except for Roy, who has apparently gotten bored and wandered off on his own..."


The turbolift doors *whoosh!* open, as usual. As Ah'Choo and MP-X301 step out of the lift, a scene of total devastation greets them. The dead bodies of most of the Bridge crew lay strewn about the room, exhibiting various states of internal organ displacement. Many of them are draped over the numerous control consoles, having apparently been shot where they stood operating the ship. The front of the Bridge is occupied by the massive viewport, which looks out onto the starry heavens.

"Ew. Lovely," MP-X301 comments.

"My goodness!" Ah'Choo gasps.

MP-X301 does a bioscan to ensure there is nothing alive. Finding no life signs from his sensors, he scans the Bridge visually. His eye eventually falls on the Captain's chair, which is turned towards the front of the Bridge. He can't see much from his current vantage point, but it appears that someone is sitting in it.

"I'll check the Captain's chair and then try to fire up Navigation, Ma'am."

"I'll see if I can figure out where to deactivate the autodestruct."

Ah'Choo wanders around the carnage hoping for a big red button marked "Autodestruct Disable" or at least something as obvious. MP-X301 floats up to the Captain's chair to identify who is sitting there.

The chair is occupied by the Artist Formerly Known as Captain Richards, who is now embarking on a new career in the corpse corps. His body is covered with bruises and open wounds, the apparent result of a long series of torture attempts. Most disturbing is his face, which is permanently frozen in a look of sheer horror. He is slumped back against the chair, having apparently died at the hands of his captors during their "questioning".

"It's the Captain, Ma'am. Best not look too close, he's not exactly at his best at the moment."

Ah'Choo glances over and grimaces. "I'm assuming the Captain is... dead, MP?"

MP-X301 searches the Captain's body. He finds 27 buckazoids in change and a small metal key tucked inside his Captain's jacket.

"I found a key, Ma'am. And 27 buckazoids, but I don't think they'll do us much good."

Suddenly the Captain's eyes snap open! He gasps for breath and his arm reaches out to grab MP-X301's own!

"EEP! Captain!"

"So he's not dead?" Ah'Choo abandons her search and rushes over to MP-X301 and the Captain. Richards looks straight at the both of them and struggles to speak...

"Urgh... gack... wheeze...!"

"Sir! Are you..." MP-X301 chokes on the word "OK" and changes it to, "...able to assist us?"

"Please sir, we need to stop the autodestruct and then we'll heal you..." Ah'Choo pleads.

MP-X301 tries to stop Richards from dying. The Captain struggles to say something...

"...Rosebud..."

And with that he slumps back, dead.


After jogging through the corridors, Roy comes across the door to Cabin 208, which is closed. He studies the door and the console next to it. The console is essentially a slot for a keycard, and little more. There's also a button and intercom for paging the cabin's occupant from outside. The purser's desk is down the hall. And, there's an interface not too far from the door, next to the nearest turbolift.

Roy heads over to the interface. "Computer, could you open the door to Cabin 208 for me?"

"PROCESSING... GUEST ROOMS ARE ACCESSIBLE BY KEYCARD VERIFICATION ONLY."

"And you can't make any exception?"

"NO."

"OK."

"OKAY, THEN. HAVE A NICE DAY."


"Rosebud? Shoot, I don't think I can help him!" MP-X301 despairs.

"Rosebud?" Ah'Choo says in puzzlement, then gets a sudden hopeful thought. "Ah, computer? Computer, disable autodestruct, command code, 'Rosebud'?"

"WAIT!" MP-X301 stops her.

"You want me to wait?!"

"Computer, external scan, locate Sarien probe!" MP-X301 overrides her query.

"PROCESSING..."

"May I remind you we are under a timer here?!"

"Yes, Ma'am, but don't you think if you disable the device before we do something about the probe, they'll KNOW we survived?"

"Not until the time that the timer would have reached zero, I presume."

The center segment of the view window before them suddenly changes, overlaying the view of the starfield as though changing channels on a TV. The new image shows a close-up visual image of what appears to be a space probe, along with a series of numerical coordinates.

MP-X301 shoves the former navigator's body off the Navigation console and keys in the coordinates listed.

"Computer, distance to probe?"

The computer rattles off a distance. It then commences a PA announcement...


Roy runs as fast as he can to the purser's desk. As he's running he hears the computer announce over the PA system:

"AUTODESTRUCT SEQUENCE IS ENGAGED. 15 MINUTES UNTIL DETONATION. ALL PASSENGERS, PLEASE MAKE YOUR WAY TO THE ESCAPE PODS. THANK YOU."

When he reaches the purser's desk he finds that it looks exactly the same as before, except for the noticeable lack of a purser, and a copious pool of blood in his place. Roy searches the desk, hoping for a multipass of some sort. Among various bits of sticky notes and paper clips, he finds 13 buckazoids, a flashlight, and... a card labeled "Master Key"!

Roy grabs the items and runs back to Cabin 208.


MP-X301 moves the throttle up smoothly to maximum thrust. Nothing happens. Then... nothing ELSE happens. Then... with a low rumble, the ship begins to move, ever so slowly.

"IMPACT IN 1 MINUTE AND 27 SECONDS. WARNING: COLLISION IMMINENT," the computer announces.

"Are you finished with the computer, MP?"

"For now, Ma'am."

"Computer, disable autodestruct 2 minutes from now, command code, 'Rosebud'."

"PROCESSING..."

"Are *you* done, Ma'am? We need to find someplace to hide if this doesn't work. Unless you want to try to board the probe in an EVA suit and try to disable it manually. If so, let me know now... this thing doesn't turn on a dime, you know."

"We'll see in two minutes, MP."

The computer finishes processing the request. "ERROR: IMPROPER COMMAND CODE SYNTAX."

"Think the time delay is the problem?"

"I'm not sure, MP. Computer, what is proper command code syntax?"

"COMMAND CODES EXPRESSED AS NUMERICAL STRING. ALPHANUMERIC STRING INVALID."

"Did you notice anything written on that key you retrieved from the Captain, MP?"

MP-X301 examines the key from Richards. The key is small, and appears to be a hex key, the sort used for opening access panels and hatches. It bears no markings.

"No, Ma'am."

Ah'Choo has a sudden flash of inspiration. "Computer, display Bridge video pickup starting from when the Sariens boarded the Bridge."

MP-X301 tries some of his own notions in the meantime. "Computer, scan Captain's Log for references to 'Rosebud'."

"ERROR: CAPTAIN'S LOG ACCESSIBLE ONLY BY CAPTAIN FRANCIS RICHARDS."

"Computer, access Captain's Log, access code 'Rosebud'."

"ERROR: CAPTAIN'S LOG ACCESSIBLE ONLY BY CAPTAIN FRANCIS RICHARDS."

As Ah'Choo finishes accessing the video logs with her previously stolen security code, the main viewscreen changes again. This time, it displays what appears to be security video footage, complete with grainy picture and bad angle adjustment.

The video shows the Bridge crew working frantically, trying desperately to evade the attack. A jolt rocks the ship (in the video), accompanied by a muffled *BADOOM!*. Many of the crew fly helplessly around the room. As the battered crew climbs to its feet, an ominous shape begins to rise up outside the forward window...

As the crew stares in horror, a massive shape appears onscreen. It appears for all the world to be a giant green bug, made of metal and bristling with weaponry. The twin eyes of its Bridge windows stare directly at the crew.

"Computer, fast-forward five minutes," Ah'Choo commands.

The video fast-forwards... Kreeeeeee-Reeeeeee-Reeeeeee-Reeeeeee-Whirrrrr-WHIIIIIIIIIINE! ...and then resumes playing.

It now shows the crew once again frantically working the controls. Suddenly weapons fire begins to appear from off-screen, cutting down several of the officers. Shortly thereafter over a dozen armored Sariens storm on camera and begin to mercilessly slaughter the remaining crew. The sounds of the carnage in the video reverberate around the real Bridge in high-fidelity Octophonic Surround Sound.

"Ew! That weapons fire sounds nasty! I can practically FEEL the pulseray bolts going through my outer casing!"

Ah'Choo looks faintly ill and says, "Computer, increase audio pickup playback to maximum volume."

The sounds of wanton destruction suddenly become so loud that they threaten to burst eardrums (or audio receptors).

MP-X301 auto-cuts off anything that would exceed audio-receptor tolerances. "Down just a snitch, please, Ma'am... I'm getting horrendous feedback squeals."

Eventually the video shows that the entire Bridge crew is dead. The Sarien troopers take up defensive positions near the consoles, as a trio of armorless Sariens enter the room.

"Computer, reduce volume by a couple of notches. Sorry MP, I just don't want to miss anything potentially useful."

"Thank you, Ma'am."

MP-X301 sticks his bedpan cleaning tool in his audio receptor, starts to shake it about, then thinks better of it. He puts away the bedpan tool and uses a finger instead.

In the middle of all this the computer announces, "IMPACT IN 24 SECONDS. HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS."

MP-X301 responds, "Computer, send to Public Address system: 'All hands, brace for impact!'" The message goes out through the ship, and he turns back to the video.


Roy runs back to Cabin 208 and plows headlong into its door, giving himself quite a headache. He grabs his gun and slides the card into the lock. After several agonizingly long seconds, the door *whoosh!*es open. Weapon at hand, he enters and takes a quick look at the room.

The room appears to be a regular guest room, sporting a bed, closet, table, and minifridge, identical to the ones in Roy's own room. This room, however, looks as though a bomb exploded in it. Apparently Slim has yet to learn how to clean up after himself. Junk food wrappers litter every possible surface.

"Great."

Roy goes take a look at the bathroom, weapon still at hand. He finds the only thing to defend himself from is more trash, which is littering the bathroom. Several rolls' worth of toilet paper appear to be clogging the toilet itself. A medicine cabinet hangs over the sink, both of which are filthy.

Roy gives a quick look at the junk littering the floor, opens the cabinet, and is surprised when absolutely no acid-piddling alien facehuggers leap out at him. The cabinet contains only a few bottles of "medicine" (whose actual medicinal effects are questionable).

Roy grabs the "medicine" and gives a quick look at the shower, which is coated with an unidentifiable mildewy substance.

"Ew."

Roy heads back into the guest room proper and tries to find something useful in all the stuff that covers the furniture of the room. After spending a couple of minutes searching the room, however, all he can come up with is 7 buckazoids and a used gum wrapper from beneath the couch cushions.

He then goes over and opens the closet. It contains several shirts and pairs of pants, all of which bear various unidentifiable stains. After an exhausting search through the clothes, he uncovers a pair of smelly underwear crammed into the pocket of one of the pairs of pants.

Getting frustrated at not finding anything worthwhile, Roy tries methodically turning over every conceivable hiding place, which nets a roll of antacid tablets under the table and a six-pack of LeGuinness Stout in the fridge.

He finally grabs the beer and the antacid tablets, runs out the door and over to Cabin 209, unlocks that door, goes into the bathroom, takes the nearest clean and non-smelly towel, heads back to Slim's room, unlocks the door, and puts the underwear that possibly has Slim's DNA remains in the clean towel before putting it in his inventory.


The unarmored Sariens on the Bridge screen begin to fiddle with the various consoles, except one, who stands near the empty Captain's chair in a supervisory pose.

"Computer, fast-forward another five minutes," Ah'Choo commands.

The computer complies. Kreeeeeee-Reeeeeee-Reeeeeee-Reeeeeee-Whirrrrr-WHIIIIIIIIIINE!

The video now shows a pair of armored Sariens dragging a struggling Captain Richards onto the Bridge. They roughly shove him into the Captain's chair, where the apparent leader of the Sariens begins to address him with various threats.

Ah'Choo takes a deep breath. "Here we go..."

The dialogue between the Sarien Commander and the Captain consists of repeated requests for the autodestruct code and threats on behalf of the former, and repeated obscenities from the latter.

MP-X301 waits with baited breath.

After several failed attempts, the Sarien Commander produces a briefcase from somewhere and opens it to reveal an array of strange tools and gadgets.

"Oh dear," Ah'Choo gasps.

"Oh no... I don't like the looks of those... Hey, that looks like my suitcase! Wait, no it doesn't."

The Sarien selects a particularly nasty-looking device, grins evilly at the Captain, then holds it towards him and presses a button. The angle of the shot in the video puts the back of the Captain's chair towards MP-X301 and Ah'Choo, making it impossible for them to see exactly what is happening... however, judging from the desperate flailing and blood-curdling screams on Richards' part, it can't be pleasant.

Ah'Choo mutters a few prayers to Vulgar deities. MP-X301 would be slightly sick to the stomach, if he had one. He hangs his head under the Navigator station and simulates some gagging and retching sounds from some of his patients.

Ah'Choo recovers her composure enough to tell the computer to fast-forward again.

Kreeeeeee-Reeeeeee-Reeeeeee-Reeeeeee-Whirrrrr-WHIIIIIIIIIINE!

After going through about 20 minutes of hideous torture in fits and starts, Ah'Choo *finally* reaches a point where the Captain weakly mimes surrender.

The computer interrupts with another announcement. "IMPACT IN 13 SECONDS. WHEE."

MP-X301 suddenly wonders, a bit too late, if the probe they're about to ram is very large. His attention is drawn back to the video, however, by Richards beginning to speak...

Just then the video cuts into static... and then to a view of the helmetless Sarien Commander. He speaks with the same voice the Party heard over the PA earlier.

"Nice try, weaklings. We anticipated this, and encrypted the segment of video that could otherwise have spared your lives. So sorry. I'd tell you the decryption code, but... oh, would you look at the time? Got to run."

The view goes blank, once again displaying the endless starfield of space... the spinal frontier.

Ah'Choo lets out a sigh, then grouses, "Wonderful. I just watched a thoroughly unpleasant torture for no reason whatsoever. I may as well submit to suicide at this point regardless."

MP-X301 has a better idea, however. "Computer, decrypt Bridge security video, code 'Rosebud'."

"PROCESSING... CODE ACCEPTED. BEGINNING DECRYPTION SEQUENCE."

Ah'Choo perks up. "Maybe suicide is not required after all?"

"Hope not, Ma'am."

"IMPACT IN 2 SECONDS. SO LONG," the computer announces.

MP-X301 grabs onto the Navigation console. Ah'Choo braces herself on the nearest chair. A thunderous shudder shakes the ship. Alarm klaxons begin sounding again.


Roy dashes into the turbolift at top speed and instructs it to take him to the nearest airlock. Just as he steps out of the turbolift at his destination, however, a thunderous shudder shakes the ship. Roy bounces out of the turbolift and flies directly into the wall in front of it much like a superball bouncing around endlessly in a huge clothes dryer after someone opens the door.


Ah'Choo loses her grip on her chair and plows into several dead bodies with a very disgusting SQUISH! sound.

MP-X301 bounces about the room like a pinball in a tilted machine, finally ending up in front of the Captain's chair, just in time for the Captain's body to be jostled out of it and squarely on top of him. Both robot and corpse fall to the floor. Several other dead Bridge crew members fall all over the place, though not with much enthusiasm.

"ACK! Captain, please!"

Richards doesn't respond. Apparently, now that he's dead, he's too good to talk to the likes of these folks.

Ah'Choo staggers to her feet, clawing her way out from the dead body pile. MP-X301 gently extracts himself from under the Captain's body, and returns to the Navigation console. The readings indicate that the ship is still plowing forward at full sublight speed.

MP-X301 pulls back on the throttle. Ah'Choo braces herself on a chair again and waits for the decryption sequence to finish with a bit of weariness.

"I really should have remained on my parents' starship."

"Maybe when we get done returning the Extravagance to the cruise ship corporation, you can return to your parents' starship. ...maybe even take me along? It's not like washing bedpans is a great living for a droid, you know."

"The damage is done already, I'm afraid."

The computer chirps up again. "DECRYPTION SEQUENCE INITIATED. ESTIMATED COMPLETION TIME: 7 MINUTES."

"Meaning the damage to the ship? I'm sorry, Ma'am... I was just trying my best."

"No, MP, the damage is to my sanity. And, the Vulgars would most likely dismantle you due to your being over standard operating lengths, and I would... miss you... I must admit."

"Oh. Um, meaning I'm out of warranty, eh?"

"Essentially."

"AUTODESTRUCT SEQUENCE ENGAGED. 10 MINUTES UNTIL DETONATION," the computer announces.

MP-X301 turns his attention to seeing if ramming the probe worked. "Computer, external scan, report all nearby astral bodies and landmarks within 1 hour at maximum sublight speed."

"QUERY ERROR: NO RESULTS FOUND."

"Computer, external scan, report all contacts."

"EXTERNAL SCANS: RESULTS: UNIDENTIFIED DEBRIS DETECTED 0.0 METERS OFF BOW."

"Well, we seem to have disabled the Sarien probe, at least," MP-X301 comments.

"I'm seeing if there's alternative ways to disable the engines, in case this video attempt fails." Ah'Choo heads over to the Engineering console.

"Excellent, Ma'am. I'm hoping this works. Can you check the operational status of the lightspeed engines?"

"Affirmative, MP."

Ah'Choo wrangles with the Engineering console, searching for any pertinent information.

"The engines appear to be currently off-line. Hmm. And there doesn't seem to be an obvious way to detach the engines, at least. Unless you have further ideas, the video pickup may be our only shot unless we attempt to catch up with Roy's airlock notion."

"Well, we'll have three minutes."

"I wonder how Roy is doing..." Ah'Choo pauses, then amends that to, "I wonder *what* Roy is doing."


Roy gets back to his feet and runs in the direction of the airlock room. After several moments, he reaches the outer door of the airlock. The door is very big, and very heavy. A control panel sits next to it.

He looks around for lockers, EVA suits, jetpack, and the sort, or simply a console. The latter is the only thing he finds, other than the door.

"Computer, prepare to send a message in the speaker. 'Ah'Choo, MP, I'm in the airlock room and there's absolutely nothing here, no EVA suits, no jetpacks, just this console. You'd better have a good plan, tell me where's you are 'cause I'm kinda leadless here. By the way, I don't know what you're doing, but I think a space worm hit the ship or something.'"

Just before Roy goes to send the message, he gets a sudden notion. He presses a few buttons on the console, and the big, heavy door opens, revealing a small room beyond. He erases his message and heads into the room.

The wall of the room is lined with a trio of closets with airtight rubber seals on the doors. The far wall of the chamber is occupied by another massive door identical to the first and another control panel. Roy searches all of the lockers and discovers that hanging within each of them is an EVA suit, sized and fitted for a normal-sized humanoid, and a detachable zero-G thruster pack.

"Wonderful."

Roy uses the console to prepare an amended message for MP-X301 and Ah'Choo.


"Computer, time left until completion of decryption?" Ah'Choo queries.

"3 MINUTES."

"Computer, prepare PA message for broadcast..."

Before Ah'Choo can finish her query, however, another message comes over the PA.

"*PCHHHH* Ah'Choo, MP, I'm in the airlock room and there's EVA suits and jetpacks and everything. If you don't have any better plans, tell me where's you are so I can drop to give you a hand. By the way, I don't know what you're doing, but I think a space worm hit the ship or something. *PCHHHH*"

"It seems he beat us to a message." Ah'Choo records a response.


A few moments later Roy hears a broadcast response from Ah'Choo.

"*PCHHHH* Roy, we have possibly found a way to disable the autodestruct from our current position on the Bridge. The impact you experienced was our ramming the Sarien probe to disable it. Our attempt to disable the autodestruct will conclude in 3 minutes and we shall either be safe or proceed to the airlock room. Report concluded. *PCHHHH*"

Roy sends out another message.


"*PCHHHH* Need a hand or I can turn my thumbs? *PCHHHH*"

Ah'Choo sends the PA tag back at Roy...


"*PCHHHH* I am not aware of any assistance you can provide here on the Bridge. Please commence preparing the EVA suits and other items. *PCHHHH*"

Roy sends yet another response.


"*PCHHHH* 'K, communication terminated. *PCHHHH*"

The computer chimes up. "DECRYPTION SEQUENCE COMPLETED."

"YAY!" MP-X301 cheers.

"3 MINUTES TO DETONATION."

"Computer, display Bridge security video," MP-X301 commands.

The video pops back into being on the screen, from the same juncture it ended before. With the volume still cranked up, they can clearly make out Richards speaking a series of complicated numbers.

"Three... seven... f... FOUR..." He then falls silent.

"374? That doesn't sound so complex," MP-X301 comments.

"2 MINUTES UNTIL DETONATION."

"Computer, disable autodestruct sequence, command code 374," MP-X301 tries.

"PROCESSING..."

After several agonizing moments, the computer chirps up.

"OVERRIDE CODE ACCEPTED. TERMINATING AUTODESTRUCT SEQUENCE..."

"Thank the heavens!" Ah'Choo says in relief.

"Please please please please please!" MP-X301 begs the universe.

The PA system then announces, "ONE MINUTE UNTIL DETONATION."

"Uh oh..." MP-X301 worries.


Roy tucks his armor into his inventory and dons an EVA suit, feeling very much like an amusement park mascot character in doing so. He refrains from putting on the helmet to conserve air. He then prepares one of the other suits and jetpack to save Ah'Choo a few seconds. Finally he puts on his own jetpack, completing his resemblance to a green, reptilian Buck Rogers. He taps his now white-clad foot on the floor impatiently.

"Dang, they're taking a long time."

He addresses the PA system again.


"*PCHHHH* 'Sup? You're taking a long time? *PCHHHH*"

"Perhaps... it simply hasn't caught up with the command yet..." Ah'Choo says bleakly. She fires a quick PA message. "Stand by, Roy."

"Go to the airlock, Ma'am. I'll pilot the ship away from you and Roy when you exit the ship. And if it cancels before you exit, so much the better."

"No, you're coming with us, MP. We shall need all of us if we are to survive at maximum probability."

The computer continues to hum along. "PROCESSING... 30 SECONDS UNTIL DETONATION."

Ah'Choo runs for the turbolift, beckoning to MP-X301.

"Go, Ma'am! No time to waste!"

"25 SECONDS UNTIL DETONATION."

MP-X301 plops down in front of the Navigation controls. Realizing that MP-X301 isn't following, Ah'Choo stops her running and turns back.

"Just set the autopilot and let's get going!"

"If I set the autopilot and the computer terminates the sequence, we'll never be able to re-board the Extravagance! GO!"

"20 SECONDS UNTIL DETONATION."

"Besides, I can survive without oxygen. GO!"

"Can you survive an explosion?"

"...assuming I'm still intact..."

Suddenly, the computer emits a distinct "DING!" sound. "AUTODESTRUCT SEQUENCE TERMINATED."

"...PHEW!" MP-Z301 breathes (or, rather, the droid facsimile thereof).

"THANK YOU FOR USING BOBCO AUTODESTRUCT SYSTEMS, A DIVISION OF BOBCO, INCORPORATED. WE APPRECIATE YOUR BUSINESS."

With that the Bridge once more becomes silent.

"Computer, send PA message!" Ah'Choo shouts happily.


"*PCHHHH* Roy, we've done it! *PCHHHH*"

He hears Ah'Choo's exultant cry over the PA and fires off his own cheer...


"And, MP, you are an annoyingly obstinate droid."

"Pot, kettle, Ma'am?"

Ah'Choo gives the closest thing a Vulgar ever gets to a smile.

"Fair enough."

The PA system crackles to life again.

"*PCHHHH* Awesome! *PCHHHH*"

"Send response, computer..." Ah'Choo begins.


"*PCHHHH* Report to the Bridge, Roy, it's time to figure out where we proceed from here. *PCHHHH*"

Roy grabs up the EVA suits and jetpacks and runs to the Bridge.


"Computer, long range scan, search for Sarien vessels," MP-X301 orders.

"NO VESSELS DETECTED IN THE VICINITY."

"Thank you, computer. Please bring the lightspeed engines online."

"ERROR: MANUAL SHUTDOWN ENGAGED. MANUAL OVERRIDE REQUIRED."

"Computer, is manual override in Engineering?"

Roy finally arrives on the Bridge.

"I brought your EVA suits and... WHOA FREAK! Look at all this blood! Seems like I missed the party!"

"If you like, you can always watch the video pickup, Roy. Preferably when we are not here." Ah'Choo indicates herself and MP-X301 as the "we" and slumps wearily into a chair.

"You also had the time to film yourself? Now this is classy! Oh, wait, those aren't Sariens, never mind."

The computer chirps up to answer MP-X301's question. "MANUAL OVERRIDE CONTROL IN ENGINE COMPARTMENT. ENGINEERING ACCESS REQUIRED."

Ah'Choo sighs and stands back up. "All right, I shall head down to Engineering."

"Well, we need to get the light drive online. We are effectively sitting ducks without it," MP-X301 tells her.

"You gentlemen discuss a plan of action for when the engines are operational." Ah'Choo heads over into the turbolift.

"Computer, please locate nearest habitable planet capable of supporting Sarien and Vulgar life forms," MP-X301 continues working in the background.

"PROCESSING..."

Roy drops the EVA suits and starts to follow Ah'Choo into the lift. She looks at him curiously.

"I was not aware you were skilled with engine repair, Roy, I apologize."

"OK, I'll stay there and watch the video."

"I thought as much, Roy."

Ah'Choo orders the lift to take her to Engineering. MP-X301 gently moves the dead crewmen and Captain Richards to one side of the Bridge. While doing so he searches the bodies of the remaining crewmen, or crewmen's remains, rather, for anything useful. Roy sits in the empty Captain's chair and relaxes a bit. MP-X301 shoots him a quick look as he does so.

"What I missed, MP?"

"Well, basically, we watched the Bridge security video showing the Sariens torturing Captain Richards. When he finally broke, the Sariens encrypted that portion of the security video. Captain Richards managed to tell us the decryption code before he gave up his last breath in that very chair."

MP-X301's search of the bodies turns up 32 buckazoids and not much else. He pockets the money, then finishes stacking the bodies like firewood on the side of the Bridge as he continues his report.

"And, we rammed the Sarien long range probe, too. I imagine that one act alone will be enough to get me dismantled for spare parts... or melted down on return." He pauses, then says, "Computer, open comm channel to Engineering."

"BEEP."


Ah'Choo steps out of the turbolift to find herself in the same corridor outside the engine room as before. The door to the engine compartment still stands open. She heads into the Engineering room, finding it exactly as it was left before. She recognizes the open panel where she was conducting her diagnostic, seemingly eons ago.

Using her engineering expertise, she opens the panels on each engine pod that hide the manual engine controls, revealing... the manual engine controls.

MP-X301's voice comes over the comm. "Bridge to Engineering, Ah'Choo, what's your status?"


"I believe I have located the controls, Bridge. Stand by."

"I'll keep this channel open, so we can talk while you work, Ma'am."

"Attempting to activate the controls now," Ah'Choo reports.

"So, what possible options do we have?" MP-X301 returns to the Navigation console. "CURRENT LOCATION: F7-83," it reads. He continues thinking aloud. "Option 1: We can try to take the Extravagance to its intended destination and turn it in to her rightful owners."

Ah'Choo offers over the intercom: "I feel we must attempt to find assistance to coordinate a rescue of the kidnapped crew."

A low rumble passes through the ship, then is replaced by the reassuring persistent hum of the engines.

"And I have achieved success, the engines are now operational. I shall report back to the Bridge shortly."

"Thank you, Ma'am. Bridge out." MP-X301 cuts the comm channel.

The computer finishes MP-X301's Habitable Planet query. "CLOSEST PLANET MATCHING QUERY PARAMETERS IS AT LOCATION G8-70."

"Computer, identify planet."

"PLANETARY DESIGNATION: JNC-92F-34."

"Well, since I can't be of any use, I'll head back to Cabin 208 to look some more, see ya later." Roy starts to head off.

"Roy, wait. We still need to come to some plan as to what we are going to do. And, we all need to be part of it. Wait until Ah'Choo returns, at least."

"I won't have for a long time, and you can still contact me over the speakers."

"Very well, sir. Computer, establish a comm channel to Cabin 208, and leave open."

Roy heads off into the lift, leaving MP-X301 alone on the Bridge.

"Computer, access ship's log, new entry."

"ERROR: LOG ONLY ACCESSIBLE BY AUTHORIZED BRIDGE PERSONNEL."

"Figures. Try to leave a record for posterity, and you gotta be a stinkin' Bridge officer to do so."

MP-X301 whistles a nervous tune in a notably digital form and searches the Bridge again for anything useful.


As she prepares to leave Engineering, Ah'Choo gives the place a good going-over. Before long her search turns up a laser cutting torch, a repair kit, and another toolbox.

"Ah, quite nice."

She stashes the items, closes the open diagnostics panel, and heads back up to the Bridge.

  • Whoosh!* vrrrrrrrm *whoosh!*

Ah'Choo reappears on the Bridge.

"Ah, very good, Ma'am. Is everything in good order in Engineering?"

"Fortuitous news, MP. While I was in Engineering I located some potentially useful items. A laser welding torch, a repair kit, and this."

Ah'Choo offers MP-X301 a toolbox.

"A toolbox! Excellent!"

"I already possess a toolbox, perhaps you shall find this useful."

MP-X301 accepts the proffered item and returns to his scanning of the Bridge. After searching for a moment, he finds the long-lost Scepter of Ultimate Knowledge wedged between the communications console and the wall.

As he picks up the scepter, he sees a small plaque on it bearing the words "Made in Hong Kong." After studying it for a while, he ascertains that the scepter is indeed a piece of mass-produced souvenir trash. It was probably left by some wayward tourist. He keeps it nonetheless... one never knows when that gullible life form might pass by.


Meanwhile, Roy has once again found himself in Slim's nasty room. He spends quite a long time giving Slim's room a complete going over yet again. However, the only new things he finds are an extra 17 buckazoids and a lighter hidden under the mattress. Resigned to the fact that he simply is not going to find any more information about his elusive bounty, Roy activates the comm channel.


"I'm heading back to the Bridge," Roy announces.

"Have we ascertained a plan of action yet? We cannot let this kidnapping of our co-workers go unanswered," Ah'Choo vows.

Roy appears on the Bridge a few moments later. "As leadless as when this whole mess begun," he grumbles.

"Ma'am, I would welcome a chance at getting our crew back, but I see no way we can with our current lack of ship's weaponry and no clue as to where the Decimus has gone."

"Well, MP, we would need to obtain some assistance, to be certain."

"How?"

"Perhaps there is a way we can contact StarCon or the cruise liner corporation?"

"I'm reluctant to send out any transmissions until we get out of the immediate area where the Sariens are expecting a BOOM."

"Agreed, we should probably find a nearby planet or non-hostile ship first."

"Computer, long range scan, locate nearest StarCon facility or ship," MP-X301 queries the computer.

"NEAREST STARCON FACILITY IS AT COORDINATES G6-96."

"Is this nutshell any good to fly around?" Roy wonders.

"I *think* it should be functional now," Ah'Choo offers.

"We have lightspeed. The planet JNC-92F-34 is the closest habitable planet," MP-X301 reports.

"What database information do we have on the planet?" Ah'Choo asks him.

"I have not pursued anything beyond habitability by Vulgar and Sarien life forms."

"Computer, please compile a report on all available information on planet JNC-92F-34," Ah'Choo commands.

MP-X301 plops down in front of the Navigation console and plugs in to the nearest charging socket, better to do the light duty of piloting the vessel while charging up.

"PROCESSING... ERROR: DATABASE ENTRY NOT FOUND."

Ah'Choo sighs yet again, then says, "Computer, what would be our ETA to coordinates G6-96 at full speed?"

Roy sits in the nearest chair that allows him to set his feet in a comfortable fashion and opens a can of LeGuinness Stout.

"Want one, Ah'Choo? Are your cells powered with beer, MP?"

"I do not imbibe alcoholic beverages, Roy, but thank you for the offering."

"Um, no, Roy. Gear oil, maybe. The negative medical effects of alcoholic beverages on carbon-based life forms are extensively documented in a variety of medical studies, such as...." MP-X301 prattles on about various studies in a quiet undertone of medical wonderment at the use of such a substance.

"Your loss," Roy tells them. He drinks his beer and relaxes, feeling like the most incompetent fool around.

The ever-sluggish computer finally pipes up with Ah'Choo's coordinates ETA. "ESTIMATED TRAVEL TIME AT MAXIMUM SPEED: 1 HOUR 30 MINUTES."

"Well, shall we start by setting a course to G6-96, Ma'am? We can report in when..."

Before he can finish, however, the computer speaks again, "ERROR: DESTINATION BEYOND EFFECTIVE RANGE."

MP-X301 is brought up short by the computer's second pronouncement. "Beyond effective range?"

"Computer, explain the message 'Beyond Effective Range'," Ah'Choo orders.

"ENGINE COOLANT LEAKAGE DETECTED. ESTIMATE 30 MINUTES BEFORE COOLANT SUPPLIES DEPLETED."

"Lovely. Ma'am, might I suggest that we calculate the time of arrival to JNC-*whatever*?"

"Computer, what is the ETA to planet JNC-92F-34?"

"ESTIMATED TRAVEL TIME AT MAXIMUM SPEED: 35 MINUTES."

"Computer, is there *any* possible destination point within coolant supply range?"

"NEGATIVE."

"Well, we seem to have a problem again, gentlemen."

"OK, OK, I suggest something," Roy says. "We repairs this leak, then we find a nice place to sell this nutshell and buy a classy ship, then we warn StarCon, then we head to Monolith Burger and grab an anxious meal. Oh, yeah, and before we sell it, we need to search for a Droolian body. I can't afford to fail this job. Now if anyone have a better plan, say it now."

"Shall I go ahead with heading to JNC-92F-34?" MP-X301 asks.

"For now."

"Very well, Ma'am." MP-X301 plots in the course to JNC-92F-34 and engages the engines on course at the maximum the bucket of bolts will allow.

"I shall return to Engineering and attempt to stop the leak, it seems."

"Need a hand? I'm bored."

"Why don't you take Roy with you, Ma'am? He can at least fetch tools and the like for you. I'll be up here coaxing more speed out of this ol' girl... And while you are down there, see if you can find some droid upgrades?"

"Fair enough. We shall need to obtain a pair of hazmat suits first."

The ship vibrates slightly, as the engines power up... The starfield outside the front window suddenly explodes into a psychedelic cascade of rainbow colors, as the ship accelerates to superluminal speed.

"Cool, superluminal speed..." MP-X301 says in awe.

Roy removes his EVA suit and puts his Tuffweave armor back on.

"Did you locate any hazmat suits in your sojourn to the airlock, Roy?"

"I don't think I did, Miss."

"All right, we shall have to go search for some first, then. Let us go."

Ah'Choo heads for the turbolift again. Roy follows her, finishing his beer on his way. MP-X301 opens a comm channel to Engineering again, just to listen to them clang about when they are there.

  • whoosh!* vrrrrrrm *whoosh!*

Ah'Choo and Roy find themselves back at Engineering... for the umpteenth time... and search around for suitable protective gear for approaching a coolant leak. Eventually they come across a sealed closet, bearing a biohazard symbol and the phrase "HAZMAT EQUIPMENT."

"Ah, this is what we need." Ah'Choo opens the closet and starts pulling out the equipment. Roy heads over to help her. They both don the hazmat suits and head off to locate the leak in the coolant tanks.

"Follow me, Roy, we need to descend a deck."

"OK."

Roy loudly breathes in his mask to get a cool adrenaline feel as they both return to the turbolift again.

"Coolant tanks deck, please," Ah'Choo orders.

As the turbolift whisks them to the appropriate floor, they exit and walk down the corridor in their bright neon orange hazmat suits in slow motion, looking all heroic. Finally they arrive at the entrance to the coolant tank compartment and head inside....


Back on the Bridge, MP-X301 figures out plans for their potential planetary disembarkment.

"Computer, is the Contrived Extravagance designed for planetary landings?"

"NEGATIVE. ATMOSPHERIC ENTRY POSSIBLE, LANDING IMPOSSIBLE."

"Oh, landing is always POSSIBLE... It just might not be very pretty." MP-X301 quips dryly. "Computer, display emergency planetary landing procedures."

"ERROR: FILE NOT FOUND."

"Computer, display odds of crew survival of an emergency planetary landing."

The computer hums for a while, then responds: "YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW."

"Computer, calculate the location on the ship with the maximum odds of crew survival during said emergency planetary landing."

"STRUCTURAL DIAGNOSIS INDICATES MEDBAY IS THE MOST STRUCTURALLY SOUND LOCATION ON THE SHIP."

"Computer, long range scan of JNC-92F-34. Report all orbital space stations or facilities."

"ORBITAL FACILITIES NOT FOUND."

"Computer, estimate time of arrival to JNC-92F-34."

"ETA 25 MINUTES."


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