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Ensign Ted

by on August 11, 2015

The mess hall of the starship Blooming Onion was green, windowless, and smelled of engine oil. The builders had decided against making it a more pleasant place to eat; it was a Earth Fleet starship’s mess, they said, not a Parisian breakfast nook. It didn’t have a chef, or servers; it had a straight line of food dispensers that glared out like bad-tempered microwaves. The choices were limited, too, primarily to ration bars indicated as coming in three flavors, but actually tasting uniformly like cardboard. As for drinks, one could either choose water, or a sort of orange nutrient sludge.

Ensign Ted missed caffeine. He wasn’t human, quite; he had just the tiniest amount of squidling DNA in his ancestry, which mainly meant that he could hold his breath underwater fifty-two seconds longer than the other ensigns. In every other respect, he was human as human could be, and he had grown dependent on his morning coffee. It had given a necessary kick to his cubicle posting in the Earth embassy on Verin Prime. Ensign Ted had jumped at the chance to do something fun and join Earth Fleet, without considering that he might have to make certain sacrifices. Not only did the ship lack coffee, it also lacked entertainment holo-projectors. His duties involved punching an endless array of buttons in Engineering. Not exactly the stuff of legend.

He looked around the drab mess hall. A reddish-brown shade flicked dismally in the corner. That would be the captain, Ensign Ted realized. He wondered why she had the ship stopped and marking time in space. Shouldn’t they be plunging through a wormhole by now? He couldn’t ask her direct, of course, so he did the next best thing. He asked the nearest member of the crew who wasn’t already talking with someone else. “Say, Lieutenant, why do you think we aren’t going anywhere?”

The Lieutenant, a space otter, glared at him. “I don’t know. Maybe because our science officer got exploded by an angel in the engine room. You think that might do it?”

Ensign Ted wasn’t socially savvy enough to know when to back off. “Well, I thought maybe it was that, or maybe it was the security officer. I haven’t seen him around either. You’re an otter too, aren’t you? He’s your species, do you know-”

“Stamper’s gone?” the Lieutenant said, and she actually looked startled. “Where?”

“Oh, well, erm, I don’t know exactly, but the android in Cargo says there’s a shuttle gone missing and so maybe-”

“Come on,” the Lieutenant said. “You’re with me.” She darted out of the mess hall, the bewildered ensign trailing in her wake and regretting his decision to wear his red uniform shirt that day.

As a member of the bridge command, it didn’t take her long to commandeer a second shuttle. She snapped an order to Ted to fly the thing while she manned the com-systems. Ted pushed away at his buttons and flew the shuttle towards the wormhole while the space otter kept sending out hailing signals. Ted dutifully tried to pay attention to his piloting and not eavesdrop, but when he heard her say something about a relationship and past experiences and maybe trying to work something out this time, he wondered. Was there something going on between the Lieutenant and Stamper?

In his distraction, he didn’t see the blast of disintegrating energy until it was too late.

  1. A moment of silence for Poor Ted and to all of those in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  2. Jennifer G. Knoblock permalink

    He very honorably served his function of furthering the plot. And I did get the tiniest bit attached to Ensign Ted in that second paragraph. 😦

    • Fortunately, though, very few people in my stories stay dead permanently. Ensign Ted could return. 🙂

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