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Sfstory Log 089

Date:         Mon, 24 Feb 1997 19:55:20 -0500
From:         David Menendez (zednenem at
To:           superguy at
Subject:      SF: SA #14, Wherein the _Anonymous_ Has Its First Space Battle

                           STARCRUISER ANONYMOUS
                          (A Tale Within Sfstory)

                                Episode 14
                          Wherein the _Anonymous_
                        Has Its First Space Battle
                               Dave Menendez


When you combine two independent governments into a loose confederation,
there will be some redundancies.  For highly-regional departments, like the
police and the post office, resolving the problems is fairly easy.  Things
like the military, on the other hand, are more difficult to deal with.  In
the case of the Zakavian Empire, the two redundant military forces were the
Blargoloid Unified Military Amalgam, which was powerful enough to defeat
random space fleets fairly regularly, and the Caphanite Defense Armada,
which was powerful enough to defeat an army of rampaging cows (specifically,
they were powerful enough to repel an invasion by the Cybercows of
Bhagavad II;  tales of that battle are still told in the various hamburger
shops that opened soon after the battle concluded).
    After the creation of the Zakavian Empire, the Blargoloid forces became
the Zakavian Imperial Military Aggregate -- the Empire's Heavily Armed
Ambassadors of Fun and Excitement -- and the CDA remained exactly the same,
still protecting the systems of the old Caphanite Interstellar Alliance.  To
Supreme Captain-Commander Kvasha, the continued existence of the CDA was
constant source of irritation.  The most recent irritation was the failure
of Captain-Generals Mselt and Tvanir to keep order on Arorua and requesting
the Alpha Ra.  Commissioner Sedoc had suggested that perhaps the CDA was
better suited to keeping order on the Zakavian Protectorates, which would
virtually eliminate the Blargoloid presence there, as the Diplomatic Service
was mostly Caphanite to begin with.  While Kvasha tried to stay above the
pointless Caphanite/Blargoloid infighting, he wasn't about to let the CDA
steal ground from ZIMA.
    Which meant the situation on Arorua had to be resolved, fast.  Which
meant that, despite his mistrust of the Sonar Men, Kvasha needed to send in
the giant robot Alpha Ra.  After a few days of preparations, it was ready to
leave, and Kvasha was hurrying to the Communications Room to see it off.
    He slowed a bit when he noticed two people casually standing near the
door to the "Balcony", the private command deck above the rest of
Communications Room.  He recognized both of them:  the female worked for the
Guild of Vending Machine Technicians and was _supposed_ to be on the _Absurd
Physical Harm_ in Arorua, and the male claimed to be a reporter for
_Conqueror's Quarterly_.
    "You there!" he called, as he got close.  They looked up, startled.  The
female -- Kadar, he remembered -- stuck a hand in her pocket.  Kvasha raised
a hand and the guards flanking him relaxed, or so it would appear to the
unobservant.  (The guards were part of a security measure implemented after
a group of students blew up part of the City of Gloom as part of a protest
against the general atmosphere of grim desolation that made Planet Gloom
(thankfully) unique.  He had warned Vakaz about having the Zakavian
Institute of Technology located on Planet Gloom, but Vakaz had been busy
eating at the time and missed it.)
    "Good afternoon, Supreme Captain-Commander," the reporter said,
emanating enough sincerity to make anyone suspicious.  "I trust you are
    "I see you are interviewing one of the Vending Machine Technicians?"
Kvasha asked.  "I wouldn't have guessed her opinion would be needed for an
interior design article."
    "Well ... you'd be surprised."
    "Probably," Kvasha agreed.  "I have a confession to make, actually.
Before you came here I had never heard of _Conqueror's Quarterly_.  I didn't
want to seem ignorant, so I had some people look for information it."  He
paused for effect, noting that Kadar was better at hiding uncertainty than
the reporter.  "There _is_ no such publication by that title."
    The reporter blinked.  "Would you believe we're a small, independent
publication?" he asked.
    "To be honest, no."  He gestured, and one of the guards grabbed the
Reporter, who began making indignant comments about his rights.  Ignoring
that, Kvasha turned to Kadar, whose expression was carefully neutral.  "I
see you aren't on Arorua."
    She nodded.  "I was on my way to the shuttle when some of your guards
hit me with a blunt object.  Evidently, the fleet left without me."
    "Ah, so you are also the missing Technician who was supposed to repair
the Emperor's machines.  I note that they remain unrepaired."
    "A team of five is needed for that level of repair work.  No one
Technician has all the skills to repair a Machine.  It's for security
    Kvasha smiled.  "I see.  And you just _happened_ to be hanging around a
restricted area with a spy."  Another gesture, and the second guard stepped
forward.  Kadar tried to draw a weapon, but the second guard had been ready
with the Sleep-o-Stun.
    ((Wow,)) he commented.  ((She's got one of those handguns with the
blinking lights.))
    ((Powerful weapon,)) the other agreed, ((even for a spy.))
    "I don't really care," Kvasha admitted.  "Take them to that dungeon
Vakaz put in."  Ignoring the reporter's panicked threats, he strode onto the
Balcony overlooking the Communications Room.  A shadow moving in the corner
of his eye briefly caught his attention, but nothing was there when he
turned on the lights.  "Stupid rats," he mumbled.  "They're not even
_native_ here, they had to immigrate.  To Planet Gloom."  He chuckled at the
irony:  they had left their warm, comfortable homes and braved the cold,
hostile cargo decks of the star freighters, only to end up _here_.  Of
course, being rats, they probably hadn't noticed.
    The announcement that Alpha Ra was ready to enter overly-hyped space
startled him out of his train of thoughts, thus ending another pointless
digression.  He stepped forward, to get a good view on the immense monitor.
While ships leaving and arriving were not uncommon, he had had a premonition
that _this_ time something important would come up and he would need to be
    "Leaving ... now," the Communication Room's commander announced, as the
A/600 Warrior-Ship vanished into the astoundingly uninteresting light of
overly-hyped space.
    Nothing happened.
    "I guess I was mistaken," Kvasha mused.  "At least I caught those spies.
 I ... hmm."  He trailed off;  a thought had presented itself, and then fled
for cover before he could identify it.
    "...Odd," one of the officers below commented.  "We're still reading
massive overly-hyped disturbances."
    Kvasha blinked;  perhaps he had spoken too soon.  "What kind of
disturbances?" he demanded.
    The officer jumped, having been unaware of Kvasha's presence.  "Sir!
It's hard to say -- almost like a fleet coming in, but more localized."
    A fleet?  Was Rtali finally making his move?  Kvasha knew that even the
Eighth Fleet, powerful as it was, wouldn't survive a direct assault on
Planet Gloom, but it would do a lot of damage before its destruction.
    On the monitor, there was the usual off-white flash followed by the
emergence of what had to be the largest single starship Kvasha had ever
seen.  It took him only a second to remember where he had heard of an
immense starship that related to recent events:  this was almost certainly
the ship the Terrans had come from.  Worse, they probably wanted their
people back, and no one knew where they were.
    Behind him, he heard the balcony's doors open.  He spun around, in time
to see them close again.  In his confusion, it occurred to him that the
walls of the Communications Room were mostly metallic;  there was no wood
for rats to chew through.  Before he could come to the obvious conclusion,
the commander of the Communications Room called up to him.
    "Sir!" the commander said.  "They're attempting to establish contact."
    "So contact them," Kvasha snapped, annoyed at having his thoughts
interrupted.  "And prepare the EDIT for firing, just in case."

On the bridge of the _Anonymous_, Captain Harrison stared at the image of
Planet Gloom displayed on the main monitor.  She had never realized that a
planet could look grim and forbidding from orbit, and she found that idea
vaguely disturbing.  Other monitors were showing the local Zakavian defense
forces, including a large, vaguely familiar-looking disk which seemed to be
folding into a cylindrical shape.
    "You know," Commander Gerhardt noted, "it almost looks like a burrito."
    "You're right," Harrison agreed.  "How odd."
    "They are returning our signal, Captain," announced Lieutenant Gordon.
"I think we can do video."
    "Everyone looking good today?" Harrison asked.
    The bridge crew mumbled something that might be taken as positive.
    "Onscreen," Harrison ordered.
    The image of Planet Gloom shifted to a secondary monitor while the
primary switched to a larger-than-life image of a nervous-looking young
officer.  Harrison suppressed a smile:  despite her crew's inexperience
dealing with aliens (this was their first), they had managed not to stare or
gawk or make bad jokes about the chasing the blues away (an obvious
reference to his pale-blue skin).
    "Unidentified vessel," the officer began, "you have violated Zakavian
space.  Please state your identity and reasons for being here."
    "We are the starship _Anonymous_," Harrison replied.  "Some of our crew
were abducted by one of your vessels, the _Absurd Physical Harm_.  We were
told we could find it here."  She allowed a sinister tone to creep into her
voice.  "We would like them returned, _unharmed_, immediately."
    The officer blinked.  "Um... I'll have to talk to my manager....  Just a
second."  The communication paused.
    "This should be interesting," Harrison commented, smirking.
    "I hope they're safe," Gerhardt replied.
    "As do I."
    "They're ready to resume," Gordon announced.
    "Very well."
    Once again the image of Planet Gloom was replaced, this time by an
older, more confident, green-skinned man.  "_Anonymous_," he opened, "I am
Supreme Captain-Commander Kvasha Evosta of the Zakavian Imperial Military
Aggregate.  I understand you are here looking for missing crew members?"
    "You understand correctly," Harrison told him.  "They were captured by a
starship identified as the _Absurd Physical Harm_."
    Kvasha nodded.  "The Terrans."  He paused.  "They _were_ here, a few
days ago.  However, they were able to escape our custody."  He paused.  "We
have no confirmed sightings of them after that time."
    This was followed by a few moments of uncomfortable silence, as Captain
Harrison demonstrated her Cold Stare(tm), to the point where all involved
hoped for _something_ to break the silence, but would do anything to avoid
_being_ that something.
    "I see," the Captain said, eventually.
    This was followed by more silence, as the bridge crew and
Captain-Commander Kvasha competed to show less discomfort.  (Kvasha, being
more experienced, won.)
    "Yes," Kvasha replied.
    More silence.
    "I assume you are still searching, then?"
    "Several of our search parties report fighting with them, but it usually
turns out they were fighting other search parties."
    "I would like my people returned, Supreme Captain-Commander Evosta."
    "Kvasha.  The surname comes first."
    "My apologies."
    "Um... yes.  So, um, we don't think they're on the planet anymore."
    A distinct lack of sound.
    "We do not appreciate people abducting our crew."
    "Is that a threat?" Kvasha asked, his voice darkening.
    "It is a statement of fact."
    "It would be unwise to threaten the Zakavian Empire in its capital
    "No threats have been made, but I make no promises for the future."
    "You threaten to threaten the Zakavian Empire?  You're just _asking_ for
    "I think we can handle some trouble."
    "That's good, because you're going to _get_ trouble."
    "Oh, yeah, lots of trouble."
    "Very well," Kvasha said, a note of finality in his voice.  "It shall be
    "For you," Harrison added as the communication cut out.
    "The burrito seems to be targeting us," Gordon noted.
    "I have a bad feeling about this," Gerhardt commented.
    "Prepare the VeryLarge Cannon," Harrison ordered.  "Perhaps their
attitude will improve after we smack 'em around a bit."
    "Or maybe they'll swear revenge, call in their space fleets, and hunt us
down until we die," added Gerhardt.
    "We shall see."

Back on Planet Gloom, unaware of the conflict playing out in orbit, Roy,
Megan, Horlun, and Anme were sitting around their suite, waiting for stage
one of Bob's plan to end so they could actually _do_ something.  In short,
they were bored, and, like all bored people, they were hoping for something
to happen to end that boredom.
    "How much longer?" Megan asked.
    "Bob didn't give us an estimate," Horlun reminded her.  "He wasn't sure
how long it would take."
    Megan sighed.  They waited.
    Then, they waited some more.
    The door opened, and Bob strode in, looking worried.  "I have bad news,"
he announced.
    "What?" asked Roy.  "Where are the others?"
    Bob sat down at the table.  "While they were watching the door outside
the balcony, Kvasha came by," he explained.  "He's seen through Orliss's
_Conqueror's Quarterly_ story, so he had them arrested.  Jen was able to
warn me before he entered the balcony, so I could hide.  While I was there,
a very large starship arrived."  He looked at Roy and Megan.  "I believe it
is the _Anonymous_."
    Roy nodded.  "They must have heard that the Blue Squadron was here.
Pity they're not here anymore -- except for Jen, that is."
    "Jen's been captured _again_?" Megan asked.
    "Yeah," Bob replied.  "She got stunned, from what I heard."
    "Stunned?" Megan repeated, raising an eyebrow.  "That's three for
    "Were you able to get the data on the EDIT?" Anme asked.  "That was the
purpose of your mission, right?"
    "Of course," Bob replied.  "And that is why I am worried about the
_Anonymous_ being here and fighting the EDIT.  That would be bad."
    "How bad is 'bad'?" Megan asked.
    "_Real_ bad," Bob answered.  "Roy, I want you to go warn the _Anonymous_
and tell them what we've learned.  I'll give you a copy of the specs I
    "Why can't we signal them?" Roy asked.
    "Two reasons," Bob replied, "first, we have no communicators, second,
any such signal would be detected."
    "And how am I supposed to get to the _Anonymous_?"
    "Use the ship you got here in," Bob suggested.
    "I'm not familiar with the controls," Roy objected.
    "And it isn't his ship," Anme added.  "It's my father's."
    "You think he'd be upset if he found out we'd taken it here?" Horlun
    "To be honest," Anme replied, "I don't care."
    Bob looked at Anme, and then at Roy.  "Okay, Anme can fly the ship and
take Roy to the _Anonymous_."
    "I am not a chauffeur," Anme protested, "and I cannot fly it either."
    "Then Horlun can take you _and_ Roy to the _Anonymous_," Bob said.
    "Which leaves you alone with Megan," Horlun pointed out.
    "Unacceptable," Roy declared.  "Megan's too young to be here in the
first place.  If anyone is going back, it should be her."
    "Bite me," Megan shot back.  "Without my armor, the plan falls apart."
    "Without Horlun, Anme, and me, the plan falls apart too," Roy replied.
    "We are wasting time," Bob reminded them.  "Megan and I can free the
others while you warn the _Anonymous_.  It's important that they survive;
in case our plans fail, it is among the few ships that can face the EDIT."
    "'Our' plan?" Anme asked.  "I don't recall you asking for our ideas when
you were planning."
    Bob gave her a level look.  "Security is likely to be here any minute,
to arrest you all as fake reporters.  Megan can pass for Zakavian,
temporarily, and I can hide in the shadows.  The rest of you will be safer
on the _Anonymous_.  We have little time, you must leave now."
    "I am not pleased," Roy announced, "but I will go."
    "Excellent.  Good luck."

"The scanner is picking up some weird energy readings from the burrito,"
Gordon reported.
    "What kind?" Gerhardt asked.
    "I'm not sure, the scanner just says 'some weird energy readings'."
    "Remind me to hurt whoever programmed that interface," Gerhardt
    "Boost shields on that side," Harrison ordered.
    Thus far, the great space battle hadn't been very interesting.  The
_Anonymous_ was a powerful ship, but it was also a very large ship, which
meant it was a very _slow_ ship.  Fortunately, it's defenses were such that
it could adopt a turtle-like strategy:  soak up damage and blast anything
that comes near.  The Zakavians had launched a few squadrons of fighters,
which had swarmed about the _Anonymous_, chipping its armor, and
occasionally getting in the way of a defensive cannon, which was usually
fatal (for the fighter, that is).  To the irritation of her own fighter
crews, the Captain had decided to depend on the ship's long-range weapons
rather than on fighters, on the grounds that they did more damage and were
less risky.
    A bank of QuiteLarge Cannons fired, battering a Zakavian cruiser.  The
Zakavian warships began moving away from the _Anonymous_, calling in their
fighters, but continuing their mostly ineffective attack.
    "What are they doing?" Gerhardt wondered.  "They're easier to track
further away."
    "I suspect they have a secret weapon," Harrison guessed.  "Otherwise,
this battle will be pretty one-sided."
    That was when the EDIT fired, unleashing the power of several cubic
kilometers of spicy Mexican food in a single burst of energy.

Roy whistled, watching the kilometer-thick beam slam into the _Anonymous's_
deflector shields, encasing the ship in a shimmering field as the deflector
attempted to disperse the energy.  As the EDIT's blast petered out, the
deflectors facing it collapsed, allowing the last dregs of destructive
spice-energy to hit the hull itself, where they carved out a gash the size
of a battleship.  Despite that, it did little damage, as the unknown
designers of the _Anonymous_ had put all the important stuff (like, say, the
bridge) closer to the center.
    "Contact them," Roy said.  "They've got to know we're coming."
    "Right," Horlun replied.
    They watched the _Anonymous_ orient towards the EDIT, taking advantage
of the momentum imparted by the EDIT's spice attack.  When the time was
right, it fired its own main gun, unleashing a beam powerful enough to
vaporize a small continent -- which it did, since the EDIT had managed to
dodge, somehow.

"Gack!" Kvasha shouted, spitting out his beverage.  "Who put the EDIT
_between_ them and us?"
    "Its captain," one of the officers told him.
    "_Thank_ you," Kvasha sneered.  "It's a good thing this planet's mostly
uninhabited.  Now, tell them to move it somewhere where near-misses won't
kill _us_."
    "But the battle's on the other side of the planet," another officer
reminded him.  "We're just watching through satellite feeds."
    "I was speaking metaphorically," Kvasha informed him.  "I don't want
Planet Gloom to get hit anymore, understand?"
    "Yes, sir."

"They _dodged_?" Harrison demanded incredulously.  "How can a ship that size
    "I don't know," Gerhardt told her, "but I sure hope our recharge cycle
is shorter than theirs, or we're going to have problems."
    "You're right," Harrison conceded.  "Let's get ready to leave, people."
    "We're receiving a message from a small vessel," reported Gordon, the
Generic Bridge Officer(tm) for this episode.  "They're warning us about that
burrito-thing's power, and they say they know where the Blue Squadron is."
He turned to the Captain.  "Should we let them dock?"
    "I don't see why not," Harrison replied.  "Have Green and Black
squadrons meet them, in case they turn out to be spies or something."  She
smiled.  "Let's see them complain about not getting any action _now_."
    "Should we taunt the Zakavians before we leave, so it won't look like
we're chickening out?" Gerhardt asked.
    Harrison considered that.  "I can't think of anything ominous enough,
    "A pity."
    "They've docked," Gordon reported.
    "That was fast."
    "Small ships move quickly."
    "Then get us out of here," Harrison ordered.
    On the monitors, the images of Planet Gloom and the surrounding space
dissolved into the off-white of overly-hyped space.


They were, but then the Author's plans changed, unexpectedly.  Watch out,
there may be more unexpected things in the next, bread-toasting episode of
Starcruiser Anonymous.  But, then again, there may not.
    SFSTORY:  Can you dig it?

David Menendez / zednenem at
Minister Of The Recursive Acronym MOTRAM
Date:         Tue, 18 Mar 1997 00:28:58 -0500
From:         David Menendez (zednenem at
To:           superguy at
Subject:      SF: SA #15, Wherein Strange, Shadowy Figures Come Out of the 

                           STARCRUISER ANONYMOUS
                          (A Tale Within Sfstory)

                                Episode 15
                     Wherein Strange, Shadowy Figures
                         Come Out of the Woodwork
                               Dave Menendez


The Green and Black Squadrons stood in the hangar, watching the small craft
come to a complete halt.  "Be careful," Rick Hydrospok warned, "we can't be
sure who these people are."
    "Um, Hydrospok," George Daniels commented, "we've seen this ship
    Hydrospok blinked and gave the ship a closer look.  "Oh, right!" he said
at last.  "I remember:  it's the one that Space Hero and his friends used."
    "He's _not_ a hero!" called a voice from the ship, whose main hatch had
just opened.  "He's only _minoring_ in Heroism," Anme continued, stepping
down onto the hangar floor.  She was quickly followed by Horlun and Roy.
    "Hey, guys!" Roy called, seeing his squad-mates.
    "Hi, Roy," Hydrospok replied, speaking for all the Green Squadron
(something he did often, although this was the rare exception where they
actually agreed with what he said).
    "The squadron hasn't been the same without you," Sally Winters added.
    "It seemed pretty much the same to me:" Marshall Stanford disagreed,
smirking, "ineffective."  His companions in the Black Squadron grinned in
unison (they would have laughed in unison, but that's harder to coordinate).
    "You know," Hydrospok commented, "_true_ warriors don't need smart-alec
remarks to soothe their egos."
    "That is true," Stanford agreed, "but that doesn't mean they can't use
them if they want to."
    Hydrospok had no response to that, giving Roy a chance to speak up.
"I've got news for Captain Harrison, and some data about that ship you just
fought.  Why don't you show Anme and Horlun the ship while I give my
    "Sounds good," Hydrospok said.
    "As we are not needed here, we will return to the pilots' lounge,"
Stanford announced.
    " practice our Scrabble skills," Dave Menendez added.
    Stanford shot him a sour look, and the Black Squadron filed out.
    "So, where is Megan?" asked Winters.
    "She's still on Planet Gloom," answered Horlun.
    "Against my objections," added Roy.  "One of our allies insisted that
she was needed for our plans to succeed, and she agreed."  He sighed.  Then,
a thought occurred to him.  "Did anyone tell her family she was with us?"
    "Yes," Winters replied.  "They took it ... rather well, considering."
    "Tom only threatened to strangle her once," Stan Losar rumbled.
    "That's great," Roy grinned.  "But, I should be going."
    "You can find the bridge from here, right?" Hydrospok asked.
    "I think so," Roy replied.  "This shouldn't take long," he told Horlun
and Anme, as he walked towards the exit.
    "Don't hurry on _our_ account," Anme said, just as the door closed
behind him.
    For a brief moment, the six people just stood in silence.  Finally,
Hydrospok spoke up.  "So," he said, "what would you like to see?"
    "Is there a place we can eat around here?" Horlun asked.

Roy stared at the ceiling of the elevator, imagining he could see patterns
in its smooth surface.  Like most of the restricted areas of the ship, as
opposed to the public areas where the civilians lived, no one had bothered
to dress up the rather plain decor.  To some extent, that was because the
restricted areas were very large and saw very little activity.  There were
some regions of the ship, such as the lower area by the engines, that
weren't even mapped out.  At least, the ship's current inhabitants had never
mapped them out.  The ship's designers, presumably, had a fairly good grasp
of its interior geography.
    To Roy, the smooth gray walls meant home -- which was a bit depressing,
when he thought about it.  When had he started thinking of the _Anonymous_
as home, instead of his family's old house?  He decided it was probably
around the time the _Anonymous_ launched, leaving an impressive crater
behind where a good portion of northern New Jersey had been.  He wondered if
the crater had filled in, or if it was a lake.
    Before he could figure out which was more likely, the elevator arrived
-- an impressive feat, given the distance it had needed to travel.
Fortunately, the same technology that gave the ship artificial gravity also
allowed amazing acceleration in the elevators.  Indeed, some had suggested
that 'elevator' wasn't an appropriate name, and that something like
"SpeedyLift" should be used.  They were generally ignored.
    After a short walk, he reached Captain Harrison's outer office.  It was
empty, although that wasn't surprising, as the Captain had no secretary.
For a moment, he stood before the doors to the inner office, uncertain how
to proceed.  He'd never actually been to the Captain's office before, and he
had no idea how to announce his presence.  Eventually, he tried the simple
method.  "Hello?" he called, feeling stupid.
    In response, the doors slowly swung inwards, revealing a large, dark
room.  At least, Roy assumed it was large;  he couldn't be sure since it was
so dark.  The only light came from a narrow strip of window on the far wall
that stretched from the ceiling to the floor, illuminating a path to the
desk by the far wall.  The rest of the room was almost invisible.  Roy
stepped inside, noting with relief that the office contained no giant,
disembodied heads floating before walls of flame, so at least _some_ of the
stories he had heard were false.
    As he approached the desk, he noticed that the desk chair was currently
facing towards the window, which meant that the Captain couldn't see him.
He wondered if he should say something, or if that would be rude.  He
needn't have worried, however, as she somehow knew when he arrived and spun
the chair to face him.
    "Squadmember Gaelen," she began, "welcome back.  I take it you were on
the ship we picked up before we left Planet Gloom?"  Roy nodded.  "Was your
search successful?"
    Roy waved his hand in a "so-so" gesture.  "Kind of.  We found one of
them, Jen Kadar, and she told us where the others had gone.  Evidently, she
was accidentally left behind."
    Harrison raised an eyebrow.  "'Accidentally'?"
    "She was knocked unconscious by the Zakavians, and the fleet the others
were on left without her," Roy explained.
    "I see.  And the others?"
    "They were last seen going to a planet called Arorua in disguise.  I
have the coordinates with me, along with some specifications on the weapon
your were fighting with previously."
    "Specifications?" Harrison asked, her eyes lighting up.  "With those, we
have a chance, however small, to find a weakness which would allow us to
destroy it."
    Roy shrugged.  "Bob has a plan for that.  He's been rather vague, but he
assures us he has a plan."
    "I see.  Tell me more of this ... Bob."
    Roy proceeded to describe events after he had left the Green Squadron.
When he finished, Harrison leaned back in her chair, lost in thought, giving
Roy a chance to look around.  Of course, the only thing he could see was the
window, as it was the only thing really giving off any light.  Looking
closer, he noted that it showed a lovely view of some snow-capped mountains
-- which was odd, there were no mountains inside the _Anonymous_ and it
certainly wasn't an outside view, since the office was several kilometers
within the ship.  Presumably, it was an illusion of some sort.  He wondered
what range were they from, but eventually had to admit that he had no chance
of identifying them by sight.  On a whim, he moved his head, to test the
illusion of parallax.  Sure enough, the mountains seemed to follow the
motion of his head.  He moved back and forth a few times to test it.
    "Are you all right?" Harrison asked, sounding somewhere between
concerned and amused.
    Roy froze.  "Huh?" he said automatically, before his mind could fully
return to the situation.  "Sorry, I was ... admiring your mountain range."
    "It's very nice, isn't it?" Harrison agreed.  "I think it's some sort of
hologram.  Someday, when the technicians aren't too busy, I'll ask them
about it."  She stood.  "Come, I'd like to meet your friends."

"Are we getting close yet?" Anme asked.  Her enthusiasm, which hadn't been
very high to begin with, was threatening to reach negative levels, at which
point it would begin leeching enthusiasm from those around her.
    "It's not much farther," Hydrospok replied.  "We'll be there soon."
    "Did we really have to _walk_ to Chez Casa?" Daniels asked.
    "I didn't feel like waiting ten minutes for the elevator to get back,"
Hydrospok explained.
    "So instead we walk for twenty?" Anme asked incredulously.  "Your wisdom
is strange, O Hydrospok."
    "It gives you a chance to see the ship," Hydrospok protested.  "Don't
tell me you haven't enjoyed any part of this walk."
    "I haven't enjoyed--" Anme began.
    "What did I just say?" Hydrospok snapped, cutting her off.
    Anme chose not to answer, and the group walked in silence through the
futuristic cityscape of Sector 6A.  Improbably, the catwalk they were on
ended in an escalator, which rose into the wall of the wide skyscraper
before them.  "Why put an escalator in the middle of a cityscape?" Anme
    "Actually," Daniels corrected, "we're at the edge.  The designers
managed to make this sector look a lot bigger than it really is."
    Seemingly in defiance of common sense, the escalator, whose bottom was
several hundred feet up and which moved ever higher, ended in a anteroom at
what seemed to be ground level.  While the Green Squadron was used to this
sort of incongruity, it still confused Anme and Horlun, although they were
getting used to it.  The simple explanation was that Sector 7G was located
mostly above Sector 6A, which sounds much more plausible than it looks,
since the illusionary sky in the residence sectors is quite believable.
    "Welcome to Sector 7G," Hydrospok announced as they entered the large
mall-like area.
    "Nice," Horlun said, looking around at the various shops, the customers,
the shadowy, trenchcoat-wearing figures, and the large mass of protesters.
    "What's with the protesters?" Anme asked, sensing something interesting
at last.
    Hydrospok sighed.  "A number of people are upset about the Captain
taking the ship to Planet Gloom.  I don't know why, myself."
    "They're upset that their lives were risked without their consent,"
supplied a passing trenchcoated figure.
    "Who are--" Daniels started to ask, stopping when he saw that the figure
had vanished into the shadows.
    "Mysterious, vanishing, trenchcoat-wearing figures," Hydrospok said,
noticing their presence for the first time.  "This forebodes an omen of some
sort," he declared.
    "It seems to be a theme on this trip," Horlun mused.  "First Bob, now
these guys.  Must be a fashion trend."
    "The mysterious figure raises a good point, though," Anme insisted.
"This 'Captain' of yours should not have the power to risk the lives of
innocents.  That's just plain wrong."
    "Anme, could you wait until _after_ dinner to get involved in local
politics?" Horlun asked wearily.  "Right now, I'd rather eat than argue.  I
haven't had a good meal since we left Foobarh."
    "Very well," Anme conceded.  "So where is this Chez Casa?"
    "Not far," Hydrospok assured her.
    "That's what you said back in Sector 5D," Winters reminded him.
    "Feh," Hydrospok grumbled, "no one appreciates a good walk anymore."  He
led them towards Chez Casa, where they found something quite surprising.
"Captain!" Hydrospok gasped.
    "Good day, Squad Commander," Captain Harrison replied.
    "See?" Roy asked.  "I told you they'd be coming here eventually."
    "I never doubted you," Harrison assured him.
    "How did you get here before us?" Winters asked.  "I thought Roy needed
to give a report."
    "He did.  It was quite informative."
    "B-but..." Winters sputtered.
    "Perhaps the walk _was_ a bit lengthy," Hydrospok conceded.
    "I'm sure we needed the exercise," Daniels told him.
    "Anyway," Harrison began, turning to Anme, who was trying to ignore her,
and Horlun, who was trying to send the message 'I'd like some _food_ now,
dammit!' non-verbally, "I'd like to welcome you to the _Anonymous_.  After
we've finished picking up our people on Arorua, we can drop you off
somewhere if you'd like."
    "What about your people on Planet Gloom?" Anme asked.
    Harrison shrugged.  "This 'Bob' person they're with seems reasonably
trustworthy.  We'll meet up with him eventually.  In the meantime, you'll
probably want some quarters.  I imagine your ship is a bit crowded."
    "That's true," Horlun confirmed.
    "I'd prefer to stay with the civilians than with the crew," Anme said.
    Harrison quirked an eyebrow.  "So you found out the civilians get better
quarters, eh?  That's fine with me, assuming we can find space."
    "Great," Horlun said.  "Let's eat."
    "This is important to you," Daniels said, "I can tell."
    "I want to get the taste of Zakavian military cooking out of my mouth."
    Hydrospok nodded gravely.  "The foods of Evil are strange and
    "Nah.  'Strange' I could handle, 'bland' just gets boring after a
    "Ignore him," Daniels suggested.  "He does that all the time."
    "Ignore who?" Winters asked, looking around.
    "He meant me," Hydrospok told her.
    "Huh?  Is someone talking?"
    "You let these people fly fighters?" Horlun whispered to Harrison.
    Harrison shrugged.  "It keeps them out of trouble.  Besides, fighters
are mostly superfluous on a ship this size."
    "'Mostly superfluous'?" Roy asked.
    "Nothing personal, of course."
    "Oh, of course."
    "And now," Harrison said, raising her voice a little, "I should be
going.  Duty calls."  The Green Squadron saluted, and she walked off towards
the nearest elevator.
    "So, Roy," Daniels asked, "will you be joining us?"
    Roy shook his head.  "Actually, I'd rather go find Beth.  I haven't seen
her yet."
    "We'll just have to have fun without you, then," Daniels declared.
    "Think you can manage it?"
    "No, but when has that stopped us before?" Winters shrugged.
    Roy grinned.  "Whatever."  They said good-bye and Roy walked off towards
an escalator in search of his sister.

As fate would have it, Beth was also in Sector 7G at the time, where she was
hoping to purchase a briefcase to hold the various technical things that she
often needed to carry around.  Of course, the _Anonymous_ lacked much in the
way of industry, so she was having trouble finding a store that sold what
she needed.  In fact, she was ready to give up when she found a small,
secluded place that looked promising.
    The lone clerk noticed her entrance immediately.  "Can I help you?" he
asked, quickly walking up to her.
    "I'm looking for a briefcase," Beth told him.
    "A briefcase?"
    "Yes.  I need it to hold papers and the occasional bit of technology."
    The clerk glanced at her outfit.  "You're part of the crew?"
    "I'm in the technical division, actually."
    "Not in command, then?" he asked, making a subtle gesture at something
behind Beth.
    Beth nodded, glancing behind her and not seeing anything.  "I'm part of
the group trying to understand how the ship works, in case something goes
    "Interesting, interesting.  You're familiar with the layout of the
restricted areas, then?"
    "How fascinating."  He glanced around, and then leaned in closer.  "Tell
me, have you technicians found any interesting stuff you're not telling the
rest of us about?"
    "Like what?"
    "I don't know, I don't know ... any weapons?"
    The clerk grinned.  "Let me see if we have any briefcases in the back."
    "Okay...."  Beth glanced around again, ignoring the trenchcoated figures
trying to hide in the shadows.  Some people would do anything to look
fashionable.  They did fit in well in the store though, as it had plenty of
shadows for them to stand in.
    "Hello?" the clerk asked, reappearing.  "I think I've found something."
    "Really?  That's great.  Where is it?"
    The clerk glanced around again, looking nervous.  "It's, er, in the
back.  If you'd come with me, Miss...?"
    "Gaelen.  Why can't you bring it out here?"
    "Oh, um, they're, um, far to ... heavy to bring out here."
    "Heavy?  I'll need to be carrying objects _inside_ these briefcases.  If
they're too heavy when they're _empty_ then there isn't much point, now is
    "Um, er, that is ... we put heavy weights in them, to prevent theft."
    "Why?  Who's going to steal them in the back room?  Besides, can't you
take the weights out and bring them here to--oof!"
    "Sorry," apologized the shadowy figure behind her.
    "Watch where you're going!" the clerk admonished.  He turned back to
Beth, suddenly friendly again.  "Just an accident, I assure you."  He
laughed nervously.  "Anyway, if you'll come with me?"
    "Is something wrong?" Beth asked, getting a bit suspicious.
    "Wrong?  No!  Nothing's wrong!"
    "Are you sure?"
    "Reasonably certain.  If you'll come with me?"
    "Why?  To be honest, you're starting to make me nervous."
    "Just go with him, lady," growled the shadowy figure behind her.
    "Quiet!" hissed the clerk.  He turned to Beth.  "Are you sure you won't
come with me?  We've got a lovely selection of knapsacks."
    "Right.  Briefcases.  We've got a lovely selection of them in the back
room.  Just come with me, please."
    The door opened, scattering the shadows.
    "Hello?" Roy called.
    "Roy!" cried Beth, relief plain in her voice.  "It's _so_ good to see
you again."
    "Is something wrong?" Roy asked, looking around the room quizzically.
    "No!" the clerk answered.  "Nothing's wrong!  Really!"
    "Oh," Roy shrugged, "that's good.  So, Beth, you up for dinner?"
    "Sounds good," Beth told him, dragging him out of the store.  "Let's go

Time passed, as it often does in these situations.  The artificial evening
on the _Anonymous_ changed into the equally artificial night, and those who
weren't pretending to stay up late went to bed.  Anme had surprised herself
by actually enjoying the evening, despite having to spend it with the
oppressing class.  Afterward, she had been shown to a nice room in Sector
6A, and had spent the time since then trying to fall asleep.  After a few
hours getting used to the unfamiliar surroundings, she was about ready to
doze off.
    Predictably, there was a crash on the balcony, followed by some muffled
cursing.  Anme sprang out of bed, grabbed the first heavy object she could
find, and ran towards the balcony door.  She was stopped midway there,
however, by the electrical cord on the lamp she had grabbed.  Abandoning
that, she grabbed a heavy copy of _The Complete Works of William
Shakespeare_ that was inexplicably lying on her end-table.  Quickly stepping
outside, she found yet another patron of the trenchcoat and fedora shops
hopping on one foot and holding the other knee in pain next to an overturned
deck chair.  Hearing the door open, he turned to Anme and was able to get
out "Excuse me, Miss--" before she introduced him to the collected output of
the Bard.  The hard way.
    "Ow!" he cried, staggering back and holding his head.  "Geez, what'd you
do that for?"
    "Who are you and why are you sneaking around my balcony?" Anme asked,
unimpressed with his clever repartee.
    "My name," he replied, drawing himself up and trying to regain his
dignity, "is unimportant.  I am here on a mission."
    "Oooh," said Anme, who was growing less impressed by the syllable.
    "Some of my associates heard you discussing Captain Harrison's policies
this afternoon," the figure explained.  "We were wondering how deeply you
believe what you said."
    "I say what I mean," Anme replied.  "What do you care?"
    "They happen to agree with you.  They'd like to meet with you tomorrow,
if that would be possible."
    "Why tomorrow?"
    "They're asleep now."
    "_I_ was asleep until a few moments ago, as I recall."
    "Er, yes.  Actually, I was just going to leave a note, when I hit your
deck chair."
    "Uh huh.  And where would I hypothetically be meeting these people?"
    "They will come to you."
    "That's convenient, but aren't they afraid of being seen?"
    The figure shrugged.  "We have ways of moving around unnoticed."
    "I assume they're better than you?"
    Instead of answering, the figure stepped into the shadows, which weren't
quite enough to hide him, and snuck off.
    "Whatever."  Anme closed the door and went back to bed.

The next "morning", Roy awoke early and headed over to Beth's quarters.
During dinner, she had described her odd experience attempting to buy a
briefcase and confessed that she didn't feel completely safe.  While Roy
felt this was an overreaction on her part, he had had a disturbing
premonition during the night and had resolved to check in on her the next
    She didn't answer the door, but he was on Beth's list of admissible
people, so the door opened for him.  He noticed an odd scent in the room,
and rushed over to Beth's open bedroom door.  Despite Beth's tidy nature,
the room was a bit of a mess.  Out of the corner of his eye, Roy noticed
Beth's preferred comlink lying on an end-table.  With an ominous gut
feeling, Roy logged into her terminal and searched for an active comsignal
with Beth's identification.  There were none -- she was missing.
    "Uh oh."


At least _one_ of these questions will remain unanswered in the next
oil-guzzling episode of Starcruiser Anonymous.
    SFSTORY:  Got That Mustache Feeling

David Menendez / zednenem at
Minister Of The Recursive Acronym MOTRAM
Date:         Thu, 10 Apr 1997 19:51:28 -0400
From:         David Menendez (zednenem at
To:           Superguy (superguy at
Subject:      SF: SA #16, Wherein the Plot Inches Forward

                           STARCRUISER ANONYMOUS
                          (A Tale Within Sfstory)

                                Episode 16
                             Wherein the Plot
                              Inches Forward
                               Dave Menendez


With a groan, Jen Kadar clawed her way back to consciousness, noting with
irritation that this becoming a familiar experience for her.  Before she had
encountered the Zakavians, she had never been knocked unconscious except for
medical reasons, and now she was recovering from her third such incident.
The analytical section of her mind noted that each of the three methods
employed had different after-effects, and noted that the headache this time
was much lighter than the time they had applied a club to her head.  The
pain center, hearing this, told the analytical section to shut up.
    "Are you all right?" someone asked her.  She gave a vague nod and tried
to identify the speaker.  Eventually, it occurred to her that opening her
eyes might provide some information, and she put this plan into action.
    The first thing she noticed was bright light, but a quick memory search
revealed that, in all probability, she was _not_ a vampire, so bright light
shouldn't be a problem.  After focusing, she looked around and visually
identified the speaker:  Orliss SoFah.  "Hi Orluhhs, hows go'in?" she
    Orliss blinked.  "What?"
    Jen decided to try an alternate phrase.  "Good morning."  That seemed to
go better, although she wondered if it actually _was_ morning.
    "Good morning," Orliss replied.  "I see you've recovered ... somewhat."
    "I'm getting better," Jen protested.  "What's going on?"
    "The Zakavians are holding us until they figure out what to do with us,"
Orliss explained.  "Hopefully, we'll be gone before they come to a
    Jen smiled.  "I've got a little surprise for them."
    "If you're referring to your handgun with the blinking lights, they took
    "I thought as much," Jen admitted, looking around, "but they can't
confiscate what they don't know about, right?"  She reached down to her left
uniform boot and pulled out a small gun.  "This," she explained, "is the gun
that came with the uniform.  I think even Bob forgot I had it."
    "Clever," Orliss said, "but not really necessary."
    "Why not?" Jen asked, returning the weapon to its concealed holster.
    "Occasionally, our guard has been relatively short."
    Sensing that Orliss's statement was indeed intended to answer her
question, Jen sought some sort of connection between those statements.
Failing that, she decided to get more information.  "So?"
    "What short person with Zakavian combat armor do we know?"
    Jen considered, and remembered her sister.  But, surely Roy wouldn't let
her pose as a guard -- it was dangerous, especially for someone Megan's age.
"Assuming that means what you _think_ it means," Jen argued, "why are we
still here?"
    "First, you have been unconscious," Orliss explained.  "Second, the
others have greater freedom of movement since the Zakavians think they've
already captured the spies."
    Jen nodded reluctantly.  "That makes sense."
    They sat quietly for a few moments.  Jen glanced over at Orliss, who was
sitting patiently.  "You seem to be taking this rather well," she ventured.
    "Every Space Hero gets captured eventually," Orliss said
philosophically.  "I had hoped to avoid it until after I graduated, but...."
He spread his hands.
    "I thought you were only minoring in Space Heroism."
    "Well," Orliss explained, "I've always been interested I Space Heroism,
but my grandparents thought I should try something I could make a living at,
so I ended up majoring in Comparative Literature."  He grinned, an
unsettling light entering his eyes.  "But, if we're successful, I'll already
have foiled the Schemes of an Evil Empire, which is pure gold in terms of
Heroism.  That's how Buzz Williams got started, you know."
    "Space Commander Buzz Williams," Orliss repeated, "one of the oldest
heroes still going around doing heroic stuff.  I think he's even visited
your home planet.  It was during that whole thing with Satan's body and the
Nasty Killer Death-Beetles or whatever ten years ago."
    "I'm not familiar with the name," Jen admitted, "although I do remember
New England blowing up a lot during that period.  That's why the _Anonymous_
was launched in the first place."
    "Anyway, this whole affair could help get me a reputation as a heroic
kind of guy -- unless my association with this...bounty hunter becomes well
known," he added distastefully.
    Jen shrugged.  "I don't have a problem with Bob, myself.  He's been very
helpful.  In fact, his career seems more interesting than mine."
    "Don't say you want to become a bounty hunter!" Orliss gasped.  "Please,
before you make a decision like that, come to Interstellar University and
talk to the faculty there.  Heroism may be less profitable, but it's far
more satisfying."
    Jen shrugged.  "As you wish."  (She did not, however, mean "I love you"
when she said that.  Just so we're clear on that.)

                                 *   *   *

Unlike the residence sectors on the _Anonymous_, the restricted areas had no
mechanism to simulate the day/night cycle;  the lighting was generally kept
at a constant level.  However, that level varied depending on where you were
in the ship.  The important areas that saw a lot of activity were kept
fairly well lit, but the outer passages, which existed mostly for
maintenance or in case something happened to the main passages, were usually
kept dark, to save power.  Fortunately, the ship's designers, realising that
people would need light when they were in the passages, had installed motion
sensors which lit long passages of corridor when someone moved through them.
Of course, the security logs kept a record of when the lights were
activated, which is something of a disadvantage for people trying to sneak
    These security measures, however, were utterly failing to detect the six
people wandering through the maze of twisty corridors, all alike, that
comprised this portion of the restricted areas, since one of them had
disabled the motion sensors in the immediate area.  That person, walking
towards the middle of the group, was Beth Gaelen.  Next to her walked one of
the interchangeable fedora-and-trenchcoat-wearing conspirators, who was
nominally in charge of this particular expedition.  His name was unknown,
but the others called him "Number Five".  In the front and back of the group
walked two pairs of thugs, currently armed with blunt objects, although they
hoped to have something better once the expedition was over.  These
particular blunt objects doubled as lanterns, which they used to keep the
area lit, or at least visible.
    They no longer remembered how long they had been walking.  Their
destination wasn't that far, really, but they had needed to avoid elevators
and the more populated areas of the ship, which meant many, many stairs.
Some in the group had expressed amazement that the ship even _had_ that many
stairs.  One of the more clever thugs had suggested that these areas be
opened up as an inexpensive alternative to the stairmaster.
    The pair in front paused.  They had reached a T-intersection, and needed
a decision on which direction to take.  They stood in silence for a few
moments, each trying to ignore the oppressive weight of the darkness
surrounding them.
    "Well?" Number Five asked at last.  "Where to from here?"
    Beth frowned, trying to remember this area of the ship.  "Give me a
moment," she replied, "I know _one_ of these passages leads to Sector 2B."
    "We'll take the other one, then," Five declared, moving forward.
    "Actually," Beth said absently, "the other one leads to certain death."
    Five froze.  "Certain death!?" he demanded.
    "Well, probably not _certain_ death," Beth clarified, "if we all went at
once, a few of us might make it.  We'd have to be fast, though."
    "Never mind," Five replied.  "I suppose we'll have to try Sector 2B."
He frowned.  "Although I _thought_ we were supposed to be avoiding
    Beth shrugged.  "Sector 2B is deserted -- no one's lived there in
centuries, as far as we can tell.  We've never settled there, since people
prefer the higher sectors."
    "Well, do you remember which way we're supposed to go?" Five asked.
    Beth stepped forward and looked closely at the wall, gesturing for one
of the thugs to shine his light on a panel.  After wiping the dust off, Beth
was able to read it.  "SR388," she said aloud.
    "What?" Five asked.
    "I remember now," Beth told him, "we go right."
    "Okay," Five said uncertainly, "as long as it doesn't lead to a
    "It doesn't," Beth assured him.  She paused briefly, searching her
memory of the area for verification.  "But keep your hand at the level of
your eyes, just in case."
    Despite the chill in the air, Five began to sweat.

Roy's entrance into the famed pilots' lounge was not accompanied by an
ominous thundercrack rumbling through the early morning like the herald of a
new era of darkness, which was a shame, as that would have enhanced the mood
considerably.  Instead, his entrance was accompanied by the soft sound of
the lounge's door sliding open and closed again while he walked over to the
Green Squadron's usual table, sat down, sighed, and buried his head in his
    "Something wrong?" Daniels asked.  "Ow!" he added, after Winters smacked
    Roy's mumbled response was muffled by his arms.
    "What?" Daniels asked.
    Roy sat up and took a deep breath.  "Sorry, I guess I was being a bit
overdramatic."  He exhaled, looking worried.  "I just spoke with security.
It seems likely that Beth was kidnapped last night."
    Before Winters and Daniels could do more than look shocked, a new voice
entered the conversation.  "Kidnapped!?" Hydrospok exclaimed from behind
Roy, who jumped, startled.  "What fiend would have the gall to do such a
    "We suspect anti-Harrison activists," Roy explained as Hydrospok took a
    This only fueled Hydrospok's rage.  "What!?  Not only do they oppose our
leader, but they kidnap her citizens?  As we are friends of your sister and
loyal followers of the Captain, we cannot allow this!"  He jumped to his
feet.  "Come, Green Squadron, we must seek these criminals in the dark holes
where they nest and expose them to the harsh light of Justice!"
    "Sit _down_," Winters hissed, "you're making a scene."
    But Hydrospok was too wrapped up in his monologue to notice.  "These
villains must learn that the crew of the _Anonymous_ is its lifeblood.
Without the tireless efforts of the technical crew in their eternal quest to
better understand the high technology that surrounds us on all sides, our
time here would be devoid of luxury, happiness -- nay, the very air we
breathe wouldn't be here if not for them!  And without air, we'd all
asphyxiate and die horrible, painful deaths, writhing around on the floor
and screaming for our mommy, but she can't help because she's suffocated or
else she's back on Earth or dead already from some other cause, or--"
    "What _are_ you ranting about?" interrupted Stanford, walking up behind
    "Stanford!" Hydrospok cried, whirling about and grabbing him by the
    "Waah!" replied Stanford.
    "I know, despite the differences that (I'm told) our squadrons have had
in the past, that you are an honorable man, and, as an honorable man, you
must share the rage that I feel on hearing of the kidnapping of our own Beth
Gaelen who, while not an actual fighter pilot, can be considered one of us,
since her brother's a pilot and she stops by here occasionally to watch
movies and such.  Yet, we must keep this rage in check, for unchecked rage
can lead only to sadness, destruction, suffering, and death;  we must focus
our energies on seeking out the scoundrels who would dare to kidnap our
friends and teach them the True Ways of Justice!  Will you join us?"
    "Well, I--"
    "Wonderful!" Hydrospok exclaimed, grabbing Stanford in a tight, but
manly, hug.
    "Gllch!" protested Stanford.
    "We will seek them together, then!  Your squadron and mine, united by
our common cause to save our friends from the evil clutches of those who
would remake this ship in their own twisted image.  Come quickly, time waits
for no one!"
    With that, Hydrospok released Stanford, leapt to the door, and, urging
all those who stood for niceness and goodness to join him, bounded outside.
Once the door had closed behind him, Stanford turned to Roy.  "Shouldn't
Security be handling this?"
    "Security _is_ handling this," was Roy's annoyed response.  "Hydrospok
is off in his own little world right now."
    "Nonetheless," advised Amy Masaki, "we'd better find him before someone
gets hurt."

Elsewhere, Anme Rifba was taking a walk through a public park located in
scenic Sector 5E.  She had awakened late in the morning, almost in the
afternoon ('late' being a relative term -- to some college students, this
would be considered 'early'), as she had had some difficulty sleeping the
previous evening, what with the mysterious figures stumbling around her
balcony late at night.
    Technically, there had only been one mysterious figure, but he had
promised a meeting between her and his leaders -- neglecting to tell her
where or when said meeting would take place.  "They will come to you," he
had said.  Anme had considered spending the day in her room waiting for them
to come, but decided that wasn't something she wanted to do.  They had said
they'd come to her, and she felt like testing that claim.
    So, she had decided to take a walk, eventually finding herself in Sector
5E, which she had to admit was rather pleasant, despite being a haven for
the bourgeois.
    She paused, as a thought occurred to her.  According to her classes in
Revolutionary Theory, the bourgeois were generally the oppressing class,
living off the labor of the workers and growing rich and fat from the
profits.  Except, in this case, it was the military, or pseudo-military,
that was doing the oppressing.  Was it worth freeing the bourgeois from the
    "Psst," came a voice from a nearby thicket of trees.  (Anme hadn't quite
adjusted to the idea of trees on a starship;  she had vowed to ignore the
topic altogether.)
    Anme looked around.  No one else was in the area;  the voice was
evidently talking to her.  She moved closer.  "Hello?"
    "'I've lost my wafers in the hovercraft,'" the voice informed her.
    The voice sighed and stepped out from the trees.  (Technically, it was
the _source_ of the voice, not the voice itself, since voices are abstract
concepts and can neither hide behind trees nor walk out from behind them.)
"Are you Anme Rifba?" asked the voice's source, a small man who was wearing
another identical trenchcoat and fedora set.  Unfortunately, as he was
smaller than the other conspirators, they were both too big for him.
    "Yes," Anme confirmed.  It seemed the legion of mysterious figures had
found her after all.
    "Then give the countersign," the small man demanded.
    "What countersign?" Anme asked.  "I was never told of a countersign."
    The small man hopped up in down in frustration, as small, frustrated men
are wont to do.  "Argh," he commented wittily, "I can't believe they forgot
the countersign.  What were those morons _thinking_?"  He hopped a while
longer, until his foot caught the trenchcoat the wrong way, tripping him.
"Mfflmf," he noted, face planted in the ground.
    "Who are you?" Anme asked.
    The small man picked himself off the ground, stood, and dusted off his
trenchcoat.  "I," he said in a voice almost totally unlike Patrick
Stewart's, "am Number One."

"Here we are," Beth announced as the group stopped before a large blast
    "The secret weapons cache?" Number Five asked eagerly.  At last, he
thought, the long walk was over.  Despite the dark, and the cold, and the
constant danger of deathtraps, they had made it to the end of their quest.
Soon the revolution would begin and Captain Harrison would be deposed and
he, being the fifth most important person in the new regime, would finally
be able to get that pony he'd always wanted.  Surely there had to be ponies
on the ship somewhere -- Captain Harrison was probably hoarding them all for
herself and her crew.
    "Well, no," Beth admitted.  "But we've reached Sector 2B, so we're
getting really close."
    Ah yes, Sector 2B.  He'd forgotten about that.  Once again, he wondered
if Beth Gaelen could be trusted.  Perhaps she was leading them into some
elaborate trap -- actually, she'd _already_ done that a few times.  Of
course, she'd warned them beforehand and they'd all gotten through safely.
Except for poor Smythe.  But then, he'd always hated that smug twerp.  "Only
a sissy would want a pony," he had said.  He wouldn't be saying _that_
anymore.  Or anything else, for that matter.
    "So," Beth asked, "should I open the doors, or what?"
    "What?  Oh, yes.  Open them."
    Beth turned to a nearby control panel and pressed the large button
labeled "Open" in friendly, easy-to-read letters.  The door slowly slid
open, revealing a blasted, desolate cityscape.  Above them, the fake sky
hung in the air, gray and ominous.  Buildings stood half-open, their walls
crumbling into piles of rubble.  Their empty windows almost seemed to smile,
the jagged remnants of their glass panes like so many hideous teeth.  The
largely undamaged roads taunted him, reminding him of the long walk ahead.
    "My God," one of the thugs exclaimed, "it's Newark."
    "Yeah," another sighed, sounding homesick.
    "Let's head out," Beth said.  "The sooner we get started, the sooner
we'll get to those weapons you're so excited about."
    The thugs let out a cheer, Five sighed, and the group moved forward.

"Stop laughing!" Number One demanded.  He hopped up and down a few more
times for emphasis.
    "Sorry," Anme managed, eventually.  "I ... was just remembering
something funny I heard a few years ago."
    "Really?" the small man asked.  "What?"
    Anme shook her head.  "Nothing.  Forget it.  What did you want to see me
about, anyway?"
    Number One scowled at her, glanced around, and moved back into the
trees, gesturing for Anme to follow.  She did, noting with annoyance that
she had to crouch in order to fit.  Number One, to his credit, managed not
to look _too_ smug about that.  Anme sighed.  The things she had to put up
with in order to end oppression and bring freedom to the masses.
    "I am meeting with you," One explained, "because you seem to share our
belief that Captain Harrison's reign here must end.  She rules this ship
with an iron fist and answers to no one!  She has a forked tongue and foul
breath!  Serpents spring from her shadow and a cloud of darkness accompanies
her every step!  She must be stopped!"
    Anme nodded.  Aside from the apocalyptic imagery, it seemed like a
rational argument, although she wondered where exactly the oppressed masses
_were_.  So far, she hadn't seen any of them.  Even the revolutionaries
seemed rather well-dressed.  "Where do I come in?" she asked.
    "Harrison is concerned about how she appears to outsiders," Number One
explained.  "She'll be willing to talk with you about your concerns so she
can feed you propaganda and lies.  If you ask her to meet you for, say,
lunch at an outside cafe, we can pick her off with a sniper."
    "You want to _assassinate_ her?" Anme gasped.
    "Keep your voice down!" Number One admonished.
    "Sorry.  But, assassination?"
    "It's the only way!  You think peaceful protest or petitions are going
to stop her?"
    "Have you tried them?"
    "Look, who's leading this revolution, you or me?"
    "You are."
    "Then we do it my way.  Here's the plan, you ask her to meet you
tomorrow at the food court in Sector 7G.  We'll do the rest."
    "Why tomorrow?"
    Number One looked embarrassed.  "We ... don't have the weapons yet.
We're hoping to get them today.  There's a team searching for some right
    Anme shook her head.  Amateurs.  _Violent_ amateurs, to be sure, but
they wouldn't last two seconds among the rebels of Foobarh.  "Right," she
said.  "I'll see what I can do."  She stood, hitting her head on a low
branch.  Stupid trees.

"You're going to do _what_!?" Horlun demanded.
    Anme sighed.  "Horlun, I know you aren't 'into' the revolutionary scene,
but I don't think--"
    "You certainly haven't so far!" Horlun interrupted.  He stood and began
pacing.  "Let's consider the facts here.  Putting aside the fact that this
isn't our place to interfere, just where _are_ these masses Captain Harrison
is oppressing, anyway?  What has she done that's so wrong?  The only
halfway-decent argument you've got against her is that she took the
_Anonymous_ into a war zone, and even _that's_ not too strong, considering
how powerful this ship is."
    Anme didn't answer, which only irritated Horlun more.  Muttering under
his breath, he stormed over to his own temporary quarters, leaving Anme
alone.  Anme sighed, staring at the door.  She knew what she had to do.

Commander Gerhardt looked up as Captain Harrison strode onto the bridge, a
thoughtful look on her face.   "We're ready to head for Arorua," he informed
    "Excellent," she said, sitting in her command chair.  She looked
forward, not quite seeing what was going on around her.
    "Is something wrong?" Gerhardt asked.
    The Captain shook her head.  "I just got an interesting phone call from
Anme Rifba, one of our 'guests'."
    "Really?"  Gerhardt wondered what that had to do with anything.
    "Evidently," Harrison explained, "she and her friend want to discuss my
'government' tomorrow at lunch."
    "Why not today?  Lunch is just a half-hour from now.  Or does she
already have plans?"
    Harrison shrugged, putting her thoughts aside for the moment.  "It's not
important.  Let's get going to Arorua.  Hopefully the Blue Squadron will
actually be there when we arrive."


None of these questions will be answered, since we've got a giant robot
battle scheduled for the next toe-thrilling episode of Starcruiser
    SFSTORY:  The Choice of a New Generation

David Menendez / zednenem at
Minister Of The Recursive Acronym MOTRAM
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