The HMS Server trawled through the inky void. Stars nova’d to the left. Wormholes slugged it out with black holes to the right. “I’m stuck in the middle with you”, mused Captain Hard-Grafft Slogs. He was bored. Ahhhh, this was the life, he thought. His impeccable servers were so stable they made a flat plane look wonky. The HMS Server was a blocky tower of a space ship, designed for function rather than style, its coloured running lights breaking up the stern browns and greys of the hull. If it came anywhere near gravity, the contest would be short-lived. Like a dog and its owner, the captain had a chubby build, and was not known for making impulsive rash actions. He wore the kind of vague smile on his round face that made one wonder if he was truly present in this reality. Still, he was more than happy with his lot, and that was all that mattered, after all.
Slogs turned to his second-in-command, Sandy DreamBerg, a tall slim lady with a no-nonsense cut to her short black bob. “Oh, just check the recycler-bin, and empty the latest cgi, will you, Sandy?” he instructed, waving his hand distractedly.
“Yes SIR!” snapped Sandy, and turned to WWTwoOh, the prim and fussy golden-plated Human-Cyborg Protocol ‘droid, “Proceed, TwoOh”
“Why, of course, ma’am, but would you like me to Efdisk the engines at the same time, they really have been sounding a little poorly, I noticed. Especially the aft booster.”
“No, the cgi-bin will be enough, for now.”
The droid minced his way to one of the four lifts on the Bridge. He waited five minutes in front of Lift Two, and then the fourth groaned into view. Lift Four, like Captain Slogs, was definitely not of this reality. The robot gulped, gingerly stepped inside, and the doors closed behind him.
Slogs turned back to regard the expansive view. Ahhhh, this was the life, he thought.
He glanced at the virtual sundial. Nearly 23:55:13.
“Sandy…” the Captain began.
“Yes SIR!” completed his colleague, who stepped across to the stand-alone PC that commanded a section all to itself just off the main bridge. She pulled at her officer’s tunic, smoothing it down.
Sandy looked at her watch. Any moment now, she thought to herself.
And the PC went “PING!”
Sandy flicked a few switches, and confirmed that the RA files, which were really, really important, had once again done nothing.
“Correct and on schedule,” she announced.
Slogs beamed at his First Officer. “Ah! All is right with the Universe, once more! Excellent job!” The Captain settled into his chair. “Things should tick along just so, don’t you think, Sandy?”
Dreamberg nodded, and turned her attention once more to the Nav Charts. “We should be arriving at the WebWorld9 space station shortly, Captain,” she noted.
Slogs moaned. “Oh, thanks for reminding me Sandy. I really don’t know why I’ve been assigned to this function at that infernal station! Diplomacy! The Home Server Farm Fleet is above that sort thing!! We’re an exploratory and research service, after all. Our home site is one of special scientific interest. Besides, their’s is permanently ‘Under Construction’, and a pile of junk to boot! What do you expect from that loser, Crisko, hmm?!”
“I understand the initial communiqué made reference to a buffet…?” pointed out the Comms Officer, Snazz Hashcake, an attractive lady well known for her dark sparkling eyes and warm smile. Her husky voice caused most men to go weak at the knees.
“Oooh, a buffet…?” Slogs answered, a thoughtful smile taking hold. “I wonder if there will be any TGA pâté available…?”
On the bridge of the WebWorld9, the second-in-command purred into her comm. “Dorris to Crisko.”
Rhett clicked the channel open and his sigh was plainly audible. “Yes Dorris?”
“The Rarsian ambassador from Titfortat, Javva the Hub, has arrived with his entourage, dear, and would appreciate an immediate audience.”
“Right, Number Two, tell the greeting party I will be down to meet them shortly.” Crisko pointedly ignored her familiarity, but knew she would never take the hint.
Kia-ora nodded, and flicked a second comm switch. “Dado, I’m sending the ambassador through. Captain Crisko will see you in ten. Dorris out,” she barked in a clipped voice.
Javva boarded the station to the poops and whistles of the Titfortat National anthem that Kia-ora had thoughtfully arranged to be piped in. The ambassador made his way to the Ready Room. The main command crew of the WebWorld9, the soft-celled changeling Chief Security Officer Dado, the semi-wolvine Klick-On Hworff, and the human Dr Jordan Basser were already waiting when Rhett and Kia-ora entered some 15 para-secs later. Dado had been instructed to assume the form of a youngling of Javva’s species, that, along with the anthem, they hoped would ingratiate the ambassador.
Ambassador Javva the Hub greeted the collective audience with a look that was normally reserved for small repugnant algae you might find on his home world. He was huge. So huge, in fact, that he had to be dragged around on a cart by his two attendants. Javva, a blue-coloured lizard-like thing resided in a green glop that looked like a liquid you would only find in the most stagnant of swamps. A breathing tank fed him a supply of Carbon Hydrochloride, which allowed him to survive within the atmosphere of the station. He knew his role in the great plan of attack, but it did not make him feel any easier. Deep in thought, he sloshed in his tank.
The WebWorld9 crew were trying very hard not to look disgusted at the great mass that sat before them.
Kia-Ora nudged Rhett who reluctantly stepped forward to greet their guest. The station commander struggled not to gag at the foul odour rising from Javva’s tank.