The Bitter  Network Administrator

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In The Vacuum of Space
by Douglas Chick

If you were to look up the definition of space in the Webster’s Dictionary it might read: Space, a limitless expanse that exist between planets and stars. It may even talk about such things as vacuums or stellar nurseries or the relationship between space and time. However, if you were to ask Ensign Hill of the Space Ship McArthur you would get a completely different description.

     “Space sucks!”
     “What was that?” Asked Captain Marsh.
     “Nothing Sir.”
     “You said something? Speak up son; no need to mince words here in space. We are all men.”  
     “And women too, sir.”
     “What was that?” asked the captain.
     “There are women too, sir.”
     “Of course there is, Hinkle. That’s right. I bet a young bloke like yourself misses a little female companionship.”
     “When was the last time you took shore leave?” The captain asked.
     “I’ve never taken shore leave sir.”
     “Never taken shore leave? Every man needs shore leave.”
     “And woman.”
     “What’s that?”
     “And woman, sir. Women need shore leave too.” 
     “Of course they do young, Hilly. Every one should take shore leave when it’s available. Just a few days ago when we were taking on supplies back at that red planet. Didn’t you have a chance to go sow some of those young man oats?”
     “Sow some oats, sir.”
     “You heard. Everyone needs a little time at the plow, even your captain. We are going to be out here a long time, you should have taken advantage of it while you had a chance. ”
     “No sir, you canceled shore leave. No one went.” 
“I did? Hmm, I must have had a darn good reason for it.”
     “You said that too much shore leave was for slackers. A good crew is an dedicated crew.”
     “Did I? That’s brilliant!” he chuckled, pleased with himself. “I must say sometimes I impress even myself. In my academy days my classmates used to call me Old Iron Pants.”
     “Did they sir?”
     “Actually, now that I think about it I don’t think they did.” The captain looked thoughtful for a moment. “Anyways, a captain is always looking out for what is best for his underlings.”
     “Yes sir.”
     “You know, Hider, a captain can sometimes be a little too business, shiny medals and that sort of thing. Where’s our next port? We’ll stop for an extended leave there.”
     “There isn’t one sir.”
     “There isn’t one. That’s odd, Hinkle. There’s always a space port.”
     “We are on a deep space exploration and won’t see another port for 120 years.”
     “Oh my. I hope the lads aren’t too miffed with me.”
     “I wouldn’t say, miffed, sir.”
     “Good, good. I shall make it up to them. I’ll dig out some of my old holiday pictures and we’ll sit around the galley and the men can see the types of places that their captain likes to take holiday.”
     “We have heard rumors sir.”
     “Of course you have, Hiller. Yes the lads will love me for that.”
     “And the women sir.”
     “Are you still on about the women? You better suck it in and put it away. 120 years is a long time before we see females again. It’s better if you don’t think about it. Why once I was stationed on an outpost for 4 years, not women for 10,000 light years. Do you know what me and the other lads did, we made due, that’s what we did. ”
     “I’m sure that you did, sir.”
     “Do you know why, Hiller? Because we are men of the space corp.”
     “Sir, half of the crew are females, sir.”
      “What was that, woman you say--since when? No one told me about this. Who was the officer on duty? Find me the ships recruiter. Must be those darn liberals. Messing about in this man’s army. Young boys can’t do their jobs with a bit of skirt bobbing around, distracting them from their sworn duties. A glance here, a look see there, the next thing you know the lads are lured into a sexual communal and half of their pay is given to one of these military harlots. I don’t like it one bit, not one bloody bit, Himler.”
     “Yes sir.”
     The captain leaned down into the console, pushed a small red button and said.
     “This is your captain. I want all senior officers and the ships doctor to meet with me at 0800 hours in the captain’s office. That is all.”
     He smiled and turned to the crewmen and said. “I’ll snip this type of inappropriate behavior in the butt.”
        The Ensign placed one hand on her stomach and could feel it move as it made a gurgling sound. The captain didn’t notice.
     “You know Ensign,” said the captain as he slowly looked around the ships bridge. “I remember the bridge being much larger than this with more blinking lights and buttons--definitely more buttons. I’m no ships engineer but wouldn’t a ship of this size have more buttons and lots of blinking lights?”
     The ensign didn’t reply. She continued to press against the uneasiness of her stomach.
     “And isn’t there suppose to be large screen with a picture of space on it. Why aren’t we looking at a large screen filled with specks of light…”
     ”You mean, Stars?”
    "That it, Hillary, stars and you know space things.”
    “We are not on the bridge anymore sir.”
     “By Mike, I knew something was out of place. You can’t pull much over this captain’s eyes. Why aren’t we here and not on the ships main bridge?”
     ”There isn’t a ships bridge anymore. The men needed the parts.”
     “And women, ensign. It’s not PC to forget about our brave women.”
     “No sir.”
     “Parts for what?” asked the captain.
     “The new ship.”
     “The new ship ensign?”
     “Yes sir. The crew decided to construct a new ship from the parts of the old one to go back home.”
     “I’m afraid I don’t follow you, ensign.”
     “It is simply; the crew didn’t like the idea of spending the next 120 years in space and decided they wanted to go home. And since no one could over ride the navigation computer, they simply built a new ship from the parts of the existing one and pointed it in the opposite direction.”
     “Are you telling me that the crew are mutineers—it was the women—I knew something like this would happen. If only I could have gotten to them first. Broke the backs of the conspirators. My first command lost to a mutiny.”  
     “No sir. Someone looked it up and discovered that it would only be mutiny if they commandeered this ship, arrested the captain and then turned the ship around. Since they build a completely new ship, technically it wasn’t mutiny.”
     “Thank goodness.” He said wiping the sweat from his forehead. “The sad thing is if they would have only confided in me, we could have worked something out.”
     “I think they were afraid that you’d have them shot, sir.”
     “I damn bloody well would have too, the traitor cowards.” He looked around again, “So what is this then?”
     “They assembled this section out of pieces that they couldn’t use.”
     "Well that’s something then, isn’t it?”
     “How’s that?” asked the ensign.
     “They thought enough of me to build this small vessel. And what about you, you didn’t abandon your captain.” And he began patting the ensign on the shoulder. “Stayed beside your captain to the end. I hope they didn’t rough you up too much when you took my side.”
     “Space flagellants, sir.”
     “It is a shame, but no need to use bad language.”
     “No sir. They put me here because of space flagellants.”
     “Space flagellants? What a terrible condition to have. I heard of a chap that tooted his way across the entire system before he blew up his entire squad. It’s a dangerous condition to have I hear.”
     "That’s why they sealed me in here with you, sir.”
     “Why I don’t have space flagellants.” Insisted the captain. “Good lord no. I’ve always taken care of myself when it comes to the alien foods. I once came down with a case of the pealing testis but…it’s you isn’t it?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so sir.”
     “Bugger that. Excuse my language but some situations call for tough words.”
     “It’s alright sir. It’s almost at its end.”
     “Glad to hear it.” Said the captain in a more positive tone. “You know, don’t see much of a way around it. I fear that we too will have to disobey orders and return home.”
     The ensign gave the captain a belligerent look as she leaned over and pushed the only button on a cardboard control panel, badly drawn with crayons and no blinking lights. 

     “This ship doesn’t have any boasters does it?” asked the captain.
     “Guidance system?”
     The ensign only nodded no again.
“What about communications. Certainly they left us with a radio?”
     “Nope, no radio, no boaster and not computer guidance system.”
     The Captain began to become visibly agitated. “How the hell are we suppose to check our life support system and other shipboard functions without a computer!”
“I don’t think that’s going to be an issue. Quit frankly I’m surprised that we’ve stayed alive this long.”
     “Well son, I don’t what to be a negative Nellie, but I do believe that we may be buggered.”
     Ensign Hill began to feel her stomach swell as if there was a massive build up.
“I’m a woman, sir and you’re an idiot.”
     “Yes, funny thing that.”

Somewhere near the left outer most spiral arm of the Milky way galaxy was an insignificant blue flash of light that wasn’t large enough to register on any scientific instrumentation but did create a pocket of negative pressure long enough for space not to suck. 

By Douglas Chick

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